Every Friday at Ashtanga Yoga Columbus, we have "led practice," where one of our fabulous teachers leads the crew through the primary series, cued like a more traditional style yoga class (only this one is 99% in sanskrit).
This is different than any other day at AYC, where we practice Mysore style and can show up whenever we want and start working on our own practice at our own pace and stop at our own personal stopping point (guided by our teachers).
Led Fridays are AWESOME. There's something about that packed room, the energy, seeing everyone before class, all breathing and moving together.
But here's the thing: led class begins at 5:30am. I usually begin my Mysore practice at 4:30am. And, the entire primary series takes awhile... so it doesn't end until almost 7am. Guess who usually gets to work between 7 and 7:15am?
So I really struggle because I'm like, "shit I hate leaving early." I stress out, I feel guilty, I'm like blahhhhh I JUST WANT TO STAYYYY.
This last Friday, I was chatting with a fellow Ashtangi next to me about the "pains" of leaving early, and she was like yeah, ya know, I almost didn't show this morning, I thought about just doing a home practice instead because I knew I had to leave early. I was like yup, I really debated just skipping the whole thing today since I knew I could only stay for 40 minutes.
But we both agreed that even though we could only stay for the standing sequence, there's something so wonderful about practicing at the Shala. So we both showed up. And we both just agreed to enjoy the standing sequence and drop the stress of wanting to do one. more. pose.
And this simple conversation reminded me of something that is SO important and plays into so many areas of life: the 'all or nothing' mentality.
I almost just skipped practice just because I couldn't stay to do it all. All or nothing.
Instead, I went for 40 minutes, had a wonderful practice, and you know what? That was great!
It doesn't have to be all or nothing. It's about presence, not perfection or duration...
The same all or nothing mentality used to plague my eating. I would think I HAVE TO EAT PERFECTLY, AND IF I HAVE ONE FREAKING COOKIE, I AM BAD, I MESSED UP, I JUST SCREWED UP EVERYTHING.
Sometimes I would just feel like crap (super guilty) having "broken" my "healthy streak." Other times this would translate into binges of like, welp, might as well just keep this thang going and go WILD!
Ummmmmmm....Yeah. All or nothing.
I've worked hard to overcome my terrible relationship with food. If you know me now (or read this blog), you know that I firmly believe in enjoying things like donuts, cheese burgers and pizza without guilt. In fact, last night I had a super juicy burger at City Tavern in Italian Village and it ROCKED. I actually see these experiences as healthy. I really do.
This all or nothing mentality has also impacted my exercise life. There were times when my workout was only considered "good" or "worthy" if I really pushed it to the extreme. All nor nothing. And if I ever went a day without exercise... yikes.
Luckily, over the years, I have been able to work on dropping this damaging mentality. Little by little, finding balance and moderation, and being ok when that balance inevitably gets off kilter. That's ok, too.
Recently, this work has come front in center in my yoga practice. I've been experiencing some extreme hip tightness that has impacted my ability to do a lotus on my left side...which I used to do with ease, and... let's just say you lotus a LOT during the primary series in Ashtanga.
Instead of feeling like "I suck," because I am unable to "give my all," or instead of staying home and not practicing because I can't lotus, I have still been showing up, I've been listening to my body, and modifying when I need to.
And while the old me would have felt:
A. embarrassed to be modifying (OMG people are going to judge me) **newsflash, if a yogi is judging your practice... that person is missing a MASSIVE part of what yoga actually is... (cough cough non-judgement)
B. like a failure because I couldn't "give my all."
The current me knows that it doesn't have to be all or nothing.
The current me, thanks to wonderful teachers, has actually been able to turn this injury experience into something so valuable.
I've been working on kindness and compassion within myself during these moments of modification. When my left leg screams at me, I back off, I send love there, and I drop self-judgement. I'm working on not criticizing myself for having a "bad" practice just because I couldn't fucking lotus on my left side.
This is powerful. This is game changing. This is me practicing self-love in a very real and tangible way. And this same lesson shows up in my every day all the time, and I'm now better able to not be so harsh with myself.
Rarely in life is anything all or nothing. And actually... if I think something is... that is probably an indication I need to explore this "thing" more and reconsider my perspective.
My intention is this: when I find myself slipping into an "all or nothing" mentality, I stop and think... hmmm... can I instead find the 'or'?