Saturday, October 26, 2013

Effort, Ease, and Getting Uncomfortable

I have been guided by multiple yoga teachers- including Jen- to find the balance between effort and ease in a posture. The effort it takes to find it, the ease to relax into it. The effort of maintaining your balance, the ease of not fighting it. The effort of your muscles supporting you, the ease of your breath flowing.

Like so many things yoga, the idea of effort and ease does not apply only within the confines of the mat. Like running. Some may roll their eyes at the use of the word ‘ease’ in connection with running, but I promise it’s there. There is a effort in every step of running. From the waking up, to the getting out the door, to keeping yourself going up hills, in the cold, in the dark, in the soupy sweaty summer… Mile after mile, minute after minute, it’s lungs, legs, arms, and heart. Effort. But I have found an ease in running too. “One foot in front of the other.” “Breathe in, breathe out.” “Just keep moving.” Maybe it isn’t ease, maybe simplicity is a better word. Just as in yoga when I get my foot into my hand, lift it behind me, and then just let it all go as I focus on my breath and stillness, when I run, I find that point on the run when it’s just rhythm. Breath and stride. Instead of stillness, it is all “forward.” Even when the pace is slow, the legs are heavy, or the mind is sluggish, it is all forward motion.

Effort and ease don’t always appear in equal amounts, but the knowledge that there is a balance to be found helps. There have been laps during speed workouts where I feel near panic, my breathing erratic, my arms pumping furiously, and my feet falling like a couple of Clydesdales breaking loose from their parade. If I can drag my mind away from the cacophony of alarm signals coming from my lungs, legs, and pounding chest, I can ease my mind with the in and out of my breath, the rise and fall of my belly, the wheeze in-wheeze-out rhythm of labored breathing.

This week I had the chance to be part of conversation with a well-known CEO in our area. As he shared his career wisdom, he kept coming back to the importance of getting outside your comfort zone. The need to “Get comfortable being uncomfortable” has been on my radar for a while now. I try to make a conscious effort to embrace, or at least put myself in, situations that initially make me uncomfortable. Don’t like driving? Best thing to do is practice right? Unsure in the kitchen? Better get out the cookbook. Intimidated by large crowds of people at social functions? Me too. Since avoidance is typically not considered a viable or admirable approach, acclimating yourself to these situations is the next best way to make them more comfortable.

It takes effort to be at ease. You must work and prepare to feel at ease and…prepared. Typically, there is no peace of mind without the knowledge that you have made every effort and taken the steps to ensure that, when it counts the most, you will have the speed/strength/will/knowledge/courage/presence of mind to perform. The list of situations in which I am completely at ease is much shorter than the list of situations where I need to get comfortable. Sweatpants at home, entertaining small children, eating, napping, being a worthless beach bum with my family- got ya covered. Competing, defending my opinion, stating my opinion, asking for money, mingling in a crowd of new faces, confrontation honest dialogue- the list alone makes my stomach flip and my eyes dart for the closest comforter to duck under.

As for getting out of my comfort zone, I still probably avoid more happy hours than I attend. I deliver far more comebacks and direct feedback in my mind than in reality, and I am quick to seek out those fuzzy socks. I have acknowledged my areas of discomfort, I raise my hand more often than I used to, and I know that when things get uncomfortable, I can always return to my breath.

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