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Lora Hogan > Yoga  > There’s no race to the finish line

There’s no race to the finish line

Life isn’t a race to the finish line.

I started my yoga practice ten years ago.

I tried everything.

Monday and Wednesday were for Ashtanga.
Tuesdays and Thursdays were Bikram.
Friday I took a Shiva Rea inspired Vinyasa Flow.
Saturdays? Kundalini.
Sunday was devoted to Kripalu.

I was lucky that I lived in the middle of a yoga rich area, with such a bounty of available options.

Over time, however, I found myself dropping different styles.  Kundalini and that crazy breathing and meditating? Oh, I quit that.  That stuff was hard. And breathing? It made me actually breathe. Oh wowza, that’s a weird and uncomfortable feeling. Couldn’t have that. And long extended savasanas? All that meditation. Oy vey, that’s a scary thing. So I stopped practicing it as much. Then I stopped practicing it entirely.

And Kripalu. That was all about self-exploration. Gee whiz, that didn’t sound pleasant. Silent meditation retreats as a goal? SILENCE? Being with myself? Being with myself and not doing anything else??!?!?!?!?!? Oh my goodness oh my goodness oh my goodness. There was no way I could handle that.

I saw Anusara and Iyengar yoga classes and watched them with disdain. PROPS!? No chaturanga (lower push-up position)-updog-downdogs? I was too cool for props. Props are for the weak, I told myself. PSHAW.

I went to more and more Ashtanga, more Bikram, more and more FLOW FLOW FLOW.

Constant movement. Constant doing. Anything and anything to actually learn alignment, to be in my body, to quiet my mind. My daily yoga practice wasn’t a journey of self-discovery–it was a destination. Something I had to “get through” and “get done” with. Without ever needing to really be present at all.

Then I moved to New York City.

My head battled with my body.

My body wanted to start to let go. To slow down. To just be.

But my head wanted none of that! It wanted more vinyasas, more arm balances, bigger, harder, faster, more impressive! FAST FAST FAST! I wanted to be the “best” and tried more and more difficult classes.

Then one day, the marathon pace started to slow. In a back-bend focused flow class at Laughing Lotus, I cried in savasana for the first time. Uncontrollable tears. I freaked out. I remember asking the teacher after class, “Is something wrong with me?” She assured me crying was a normal release, but I just couldn’t bring myself to believe her. I couldn’t comprehend that I was at the verge of a major breakthrough–spiritually, emotionally, phsyically. I wasn’t ready to breathe. I never went back to her class.  I took the easy route and, when faced with the difficulty of being vs. doing, I quit. I ran away.

Then I started to go to YogaWorks Upper West Side. I eventually went on to be certified to teach through YogaWorks.

I went to take a “flow” class with Charles Matkin.

He went around the room before class. He stopped at my mat.  He bent over.  He extended a hand. “Hi, I’m Charles.”

I shook his hand. “Hi, I’m Lora,” I replied, nervously looking anywhere but at the teacher.

“How are you today?” Charles asked, calming smiling and looking me in the eye.

I clamped up. I felt my eyes watering. I couldn’t look him in the eye.  OH MY GOD. He really wants to know how I am. How do I answer?? A million thoughts raced through my head. OH MY GOD. I can’t tell him how I actually am, I’ll look like a nut-job, I thought to myself.  He was SO CALM and SO PRESENT I felt that he could see right through me. He knew I wasn’t present. He knew I was putting on a front. He knew I wasn’t being, I was just pretending to be. I felt for sure that he could see everything that was really going on with me and, well, that was PETRIFYING.  So I hunched up my shoulders, I avoided his gaze, I pretended. I put on a cheerful smile and said “Oh, I’m good, thanks!!”

But I wasn’t good. And as I continued to take classes at YogaWorks, I began to learn it is okay to slow down. I took up Iyengar yoga. I went to my first Anusara classes. I went to workshops on breathing and meditating.

I started to crack the layer. I started to let myself go to the present. To stop doing.

And one time. One time before I moved from New York, when asked “How are you today?” I finally told Charles that I wasn’t quite as okay as I let on. For a moment, however brief, I let myself open up to the vulnerability of being and took a break from my constant need for doing.

And that’s something I’m still working on to this day.

It’s so easy to “do.” To go through the motions.  To get through the exercise. To complete the challenge. To “get into handstand.” To rush through the hip opener. To look like you’re doing what you say you are, but really keeping thick layer of protection over yourself. Letting your mind control you and never ever letting yourself experience the vulnerability of just being. Being is uncomfortable.  And that’s a-okay.

But when you are trying so hard to do, rushing so quickly to get to the end and “be done,” you miss the actual experience entirely. Your hips will not release in a hip opener unless you slow down, breathe, and experience the pose. Only by dropping a doing attitude and embracing a being attitude, will you get to the good stuff. The scary stuff.  The real stuff.

I’m a go go go go girl person.  But I realized. Sometimes. I go too much. Just like in my yoga practice, I go to avoid the being. I say oh I’m Lora, I’m the yoga teacher, don’t worry “I’m in the now!” But I’m not. I’m anywhere but here. I plow full speed ahead to try and feel “safe.” To avoid the emotions, the uncomfortable moments, the vulnerability.  And now. I’m stopping. I’m going to speed through life. I’m slowing down.  There’s no race to the finish line, although we all like to think that there is. Life isn’t a race. And the big things happen in the moments in between. When we slow down, stop racing to the end, and just be.

It’s super duper uncomfortable here in the land of just being, let me tell you.  Want to give it a shot with me? Stop racing. Stop doing. Start being.

EEK! It’s scary here, isn’t it!?!?

Comments:

  • Carol Fernandez

    February 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Great post! It’s so true of our society, always on the go and always doing something. Thanks for the kind reminder that it is ok to stop and enjoy life.

    • Lora (Daily Southern Sunshine)

      February 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you for the comment! Yes, there’s something to that old expression about “stopping to smell the roses.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Now, we just need to find some roses!

  • Freedom Yoga Studio

    February 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Oh Lora…what a great post…reminded me very much of someone I know….

  • yogainbloom

    February 16, 2013 at 4:31 am

    It is scary, isnt it? And its always shifting ground – not always possible to just be. Want to experience the ultimate irony? Racing toward being!

  • Bonnie Von Dohre

    March 15, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Great post. I agree, it’s become too much of the norm in our society. We think that we have to have this, have to have that and we kill ourselves working to have just a little bit more, that we forget to take a step back and be thankful for what we have.