Mindful Fitness 5

Let me tell you about Paige. Paige is my yoga instructor—a cute slip of a woman with dark hair and a no-bullshit attitude that belies her petite frame.

The reason I’ve been practicing with Paige for several years now is that I always felt a vague disappointment with other instructors. Sure, the movements and poses were fine, but what about the rest of it? You see, I came into yoga with an education in the philosophical, spiritual, and cultural foundation of yoga, and in the U.S., there’s a tendency to downplay yoga’s spiritual roots and turn it into “exercise.” If that’s how you approach yoga, I feel like you’re missing 95% of it.

Paige made it all come alive for me, which was wonderful. Also, totally scary. She won’t let me escape myself! And I found that her voice followed me off the mat and into my everyday life, whether I was in line at the grocery store or jogging through the woods.

So here’re some of my favorite Paige-isms, some of which I’ve mentioned in previous Mindful Fitness installments (here: 1, 2, 3, 4). Many of these got me through a drug-free labor and delivery with my daughter, so I’m pretty sure they can get you through your workout.

  • “Drop the story.” Despite our belief to the contrary, the world was not built for our opinions. Our minds conjure up these obstacles for its own amusement, and thoughts like “I’m too tired to run today,” or “Sheesh, this class is too easy today,” are only there to hinder you. It’s not important what you think about it. Just that you do it.
  • OMG. Seriously? This is so boring.

    “If you’re bored, it probably means you’re not paying enough attention.” Let’s say you’re in that easy class. You find yourself getting cranky because you had a hard day at work and you really needed a serious workout. Your mind starts to wander about what you need at the grocery store on your way home, and oh yeah, have to finish that argument with the wife…see what’s happened? If you’re not there, you’re not working out. Stay engaged, even if your body isn’t working at full capacity. There are a million amazing things happening right now that you could focus on, from the micro (the bead of sweat running down your forehead, the beetle crawling on the floor beneath you) to the macro (the sound of the wind outside, gravity holding you to the earth in this precise location). Or think about the anatomy involved in any given movement—all the muscles, ligaments, bones, blood, nerves that go into everything we do. Stop expecting the world to entertain you and relearn how to see what’s already there.

  • “Where is the breath getting stuck? Can you invite it in?” As we’ve discussed before, we’ve forgotten how to breathe. During your workout, check in with your breath. The tendency is to start breathing more shallow in response to the stress of exercise, especially lifting. Give your body the signal that everything is just fine by giving it deep, full breaths. And don’t forget to exhale all that air out too.
  • “It’s not like you’re going to die here.” One of my personal favorites. I really hope I’m there the day someone finally does. Maybe it’ll be me! But it’s true. Even though our workouts can be challenging and mildly painful (shall we say, strenuous?), we are not very likely to keel over from the exertion. Know your edge, sure. But be willing to meet it and test it. This was particularly helpful during my delivery as a reminder that whatever sensation I was having was a perfectly normal one that was necessary to welcome my daughter.
  • “Open heart, attitude of YES.” This may sound hokey, but you might be needlessly protecting yourself from your own workout. Or your own life. Are you hunkering over, shrugging your shoulders forward? Or maybe it’s just mental and you’re not fully arriving for yourself. Remember: You love this. Revel in what your body can do and continue to honor it by giving it healthy movement and attention.

Who’s your Paige? What mantras do you think of to invigorate your workout?

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