About 4 years ago, I tore my Achilles tendon playing soccer. I honestly thought I got kicked in the leg and looked around the soccer field to find the culprit. It turns out no one was to blame. Approaching middle-age and not having gotten warmed up enough, my come-back tour was cut short. My wife suggested I try yoga to help improve my flexibility. I went to a few classes in order to do just that, but I got hooked and I haven’t played soccer since.
What really happened
Ok, if the story had been that straight-forward, there wouldn’t be much to write about. In fact, there was about a two year gap between when I had surgery for my Achilles tendon rupture and when I finally started doing yoga consistently.
Part of my reluctance to do yoga was based on my perception of yoga…what I thought it was. Part of my reluctance was due to being “too busy” to find time. Lastly, the main reason I hadn’t started was due to inertia.
In a lot of ways, there are parallels between my journey to perfect my pigeon pose and to attack writing as a craft.
Perception vs reality
I had gone to a few classes here or there in the past. I was consistently one of the few men in the room and my lack of flexibility made some of the poses damn near impossible. Maybe I had gone to the wrong studios or maybe what I thought yoga was colored my experience.
Because I saw it as something women did, I felt like I should be doing a more masculine exercise – weight lifting, MMA…alligator wrestling. Who knows. Anything that involved my idea of effort.
Like I said, I had gone to yoga classes at different studios in Singapore and Chicago for about 4 or 5 years previously. It wasn’t until I read a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck that I opened myself up to the possibility that my thinking was wrong.
Her main thesis is that you can change your mindset. The world is split into two types of people: those who believe their potential is finite or fixed and those who believe their potential is infinite or variable.
I put that book down and looked at lots of things differently and it just so happened there was a yoga studio near my office. The next class I went to, I went with an open mind and tried to follow and listen carefully to the teacher. I watched my breathing, I focused on my poses, I tried to shut out all the noise. I then started to go consistently 3 times a week and found myself making good progress.
Like most people, I don’t like to struggle with anything. The truth is that there is a learning curve with anything new and I just needed to get past the initial awkwardness of tight hamstrings and shoulders.
The more often I went to class, the better I felt and the more I looked forward to going. Now, my perception of yoga is 180° different from what it was before. Yoga hasn’t changed. My classes are still full of women. It’s simply my perception and my proficiency which has changed. This leads me to the second reason I was reluctant to do yoga.
There aren’t enough hours in the day
There are work deadlines to meet, there are errands to run, so and so wants to meet up for coffee or drinks or there’s that conference I need to attend or trip I need to make….These are nothing but excuses.
We each have 8,760 hours in a year. Some of us do far more with those hours than others.
How you spend your time defines who you are.
No truer words were spoken. Following my change in mindset, I started to be more deliberate about how I spent my time. My health is important to me, or so I said. How much time did I REALLY spend exercising? Virtually no hours were allocated during my week for consistent exercise.
I actually went overboard initially. I started going to yoga 4 or 5 times a week. I started to go to more advanced classes and then BOOM, my body started to revolt. I strained a few muscles and had to take a two week break.
The key take-away, however, was that I could make the time if I wanted to. I made going to class during my lunch hour the priority. After taking a little pause, I went to class twice a week in just the basic classes for about 4 months before going to 3 times a week.
As of today, it’s been nearly 2 years of yoga three times a week. So what changed? Did I suddenly get more hours in the year? No, I’m not Dr Strange. I simply made a conscious effort to make time for it and everything else sorted itself out.
A rolling stone, gathers no moss…
While I list inertia as the last challenge I dealt with in my pursuit of yoga excellence, it was the most important issue I had do overcome. In fact, I overcame it first and the rest followed.
One shouldn’t confuse being busy with being productive. While it is important to get up and just do, doing so without a plan can be counter-productive. In the case of yoga, I jumped in with both feet and wanted to do advanced poses quickly without understanding the mechanics or foundation.
In truth, I’m still learning and that’s fine. I’ll be learning until I die and that’s fine. I may never be able to do a perfect pigeon pose and that’s fine. I’m having fun along the way and I’m not competing against anyone but myself.
In reality, it’s hard to get yourself out of a rut, it’s hard to start doing something. In the case of yoga, I had a great external stimulus in the form of my wife. She bought me a 30 class package which gave me very little excuse to say no.
The money was spent and I had a year to use them up. I suppose I could have sold them to someone else, but that thought never crossed my mind. We can’t always rely on outside forces to kick us into gear when we need to.
I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but in the effort of completeness, I will draw the analogy to a close. This is my first blog written in my own name for my own company. I’ve done ghostwriting for clients and have written opinion pieces here and there, but I’ve put this off long enough.
- The reality is I had this idea in my mind that it has to be perfect or I should not publish it. Rubbish. It will never be perfect, so I need to just get out and perfect my craft as I go along and build the business I want.
- Time is what you make of it. You need to make time to write. It doesn’t just happen. You also have to factor in time for edits, feedback if you’re collaborating with others and time to reflect on what you’ve done.
- Just start writing. There will never be an ideal moment to start blogging. If you’re reading this and think “I could never do that” or “I don’t have anything worth writing about” you’re wrong. Each of us has a story to tell. More importantly, the very act of writing gives you practice to become a better writer.
As for my love of soccer, all is not lost. I still get my football fix by occasionally rooting for Arsenal at the local pub. Go Gunners!