There is a distinct possibility that I am the least flexible human on the planet. I can’t touch my toes, I can’t bend over backward, and I can’t do a handstand or headstand or butt-stand or what-have-you stand. In spite of this, and because I’ve been looking for new ways to get some much-needed exercise, I signed up for my very first yoga class.
I sat on my rented mat in “Maha Shakti: All Levels” and giggled nervously to the woman next to me that I’d never done this before. She reassured me that, in that case, I was in the correct corner of the room and that she and her friend were not experts by any means. (She would later stand on her head.)
The instructor padded in and grabbed a nearby accordion. He sat in the middle of the room, lotus-style, and told us to focus on our “red color energy centered at the base of the spine, first chakra.” I looked at the clock: 6:32. The class ended at 8. I couldn’t imagine staying in this den of peace and love and horrible lighting for another 88 minutes.
Ten minutes. Give it 10 more minutes, and if you hate it, you can go home.
I waited the 10 minutes, and for some reason, I didn’t leave. The aura-color-chakra mumbo-jumbo passed, and we stood up and started doing poses. That is, everyone else started doing poses—I flopped and flailed and strained and sweat bullets. My “downward-facing dog” looked more like “woman hoisting butt in air.” Every time I saw the instructor’s shadow passing by me on his rounds through the class, I knew he was about to correct my posture.
“Can you tell I’m a beginner?” I sheepishly remarked on his second visit.
He laughed and said, “Good. That’s why you’re here.”
Cards on the table: I am never going back to that yoga place. But there are clear lessons to draw from that experience that I think apply to everything in life, including our careers. Like these:
1. Swallow Your Pride
I’m gonna go ahead and say it: I suck at yoga. But it’s not because I’m yoga-inept (although my starting line is probably further back than most)—it’s because I’ve never done it before.
When you’re in a new job or stage in your life, you can’t stretch or bend or do a warrior pose like everyone else. And that’s not only okay, it’s expected. The best thing to do, then, is be humble and try your hardest. Watch the pros. Seek their advice, and learn to do what they do. Laugh at yourself. Then, when you get better at it, remember how you felt when you sucked, and take that humility with you.
2. Drink the Kool-Aid (or Eat the Bee Pollen, as the Case May Be)
A friend of mine encouraged me to “eat the bee pollen” in order to get the most out of my yoga class. I thought she had just come up with a new-age alternative to “drinking the Kool-Aid,” but it turns out that she actually ate bee pollen in the class—her instructor swore by it as a way to maintain energy. (In case you’re wondering: No, there was no bee pollen on offer in my class. Alas.)
But the lesson remains: Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Just because it may not be your cup of tea (or pollen), doesn’t mean it doesn’t have serious benefits for you and for the people around you. Save your scoffs, and take anything unfamiliar as an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before. You may stumble upon something really useful.
3. Make Friends With Your Discomfort
Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place; in fact, as my instructor assured me, it may mean you’re in the perfect place. Even though I’m not going back to yoga every day to become super flexible and open all of my chakras on the reg, it felt good to step outside of my comfort zone and give it a go. Now something that was strange and a bit scary to me is a little less strange and scary. Taking on new challenges and trying new things is what makes us more well-rounded and better at handling new, unexpected developments—in our professional as well as our personal lives.
4. Know Your Limits, and Respect Them
“You shouldn’t be in pain,” the yoga instructor said to me as I strained to maintain a particularly difficult pose. “If you’re in pain, your body is telling you not to do it.”
If you’re anything like me, you’d want to tell the poor, patient instructor to f*** off and that you absolutely should be in pain because you’re stupidly out of shape, and hadn’t he ever heard of no pain, no gain? (Of course, you wouldn’t say it—you’d just think it and then write it down later on the internet.) But everybody has limits: physical, emotional, interpersonal. Pushing them a little bit is healthy; ignoring them altogether is dangerous. Imagine saying (and maybe you have): “Oh yeah, totally, I can complete five projects in a week, no problem.” When you find you don’t have the time or the stamina, not only have you let yourself down, but you’ve let your co-workers down, too. Be honest with what you can contribute—it will make what you can do so much more valuable, and it will encourage you to take on more as you improve and feel more comfortable.
There’s a lot you can learn from stuff you’re not good at. I may never be a gymnast, but I can—and I will—get in shape. No matter what life and work throws your way, you have plenty of tools to tackle them. You just have to keep an open mind. (And open chakras.)
TopicsHealth , Achieving Goals , Goals , Syndication , Career Advice , Getting Started , Failure , Career Goals
Rachel is currently the Social Media Intern at The Muse, otherwise known as the person who cares most if you like The Muse on Facebook and follow it on Twitter. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, Rachel’s greatest loves are Disney movies, video games, and singing along with the radio. She writes about all manner of subjects: feel free to send love letters and/or heckles about said writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.More from this Author