Here & there: Flying against the wind

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE — My husband doesn’t do yoga. He says it’s too intimidating. He jokes that it would be less so if there was “fat guy yoga.” But then again, it would be filled with fat guys. So maybe he wouldn’t do that either.

I get it. Yoga is full of challenging things: balance, flexibility, strength. And now, more than ever: heat.

I’m currently in training to be a yoga teacher. This week, my instructor challenged our class to think about how we’d help students cross the mental threshold when presented with challenging positions like crow (a hand-balancing pose).

My response? Henry Ford.

Don’t worry, the class was as confused as you are.

Let me explain.

My 15-year old was in Indiana over the weekend. He flew out with his gymnastics coach and five teammates for the VIP Classic. It’s the first elite-level meet of the season. The top three finishers earn points towards selection to both the U.S. Junior National Team and the Junior Worlds Team.

So, it’s kind of a big deal. Especially because my boy has his sights set on both this year.

But it isn’t exactly an easy path. And sometimes, even when you get there, things don’t go the way you want.

Take last year for example. After hundreds of hours of training and six months of rigorous competition, this same boy earned one of three coveted spots on the U.S. Junior Worlds team. Then, 21 days before competition and his chance to shine in Russia, he tore his planter fascia and broke the talus of his right foot in a training accident.

He could hardly walk, let alone compete in any meaningful way. That was definitely not the plan.

Three months later, with his foot finally healed – and with a head cold – he headed off to Evansville, Indiana, to start the process all over again.

The night before competition, he wasn’t in good spirits.

His incoming text at 8:35 p.m. to me read: “I want to go home. I feel crappy and the floor is the worst thing on planet earth. I hit my head when I was [training] and the food here isn’t very good and it’s expensive.”

I encouraged him to sleep because I knew he’d been up since 4’clock that morning. I hoped his outlook would naturally improve overnight. It didn’t.

After prelims the next day, he texted again: “This meet sucks. They judged me unfairly on floor. And I don’t even know where I stand. They aren’t posting any of the other scores.”

At this level of gymnastics, even with the triple tucks and explosive twists, it is equal parts mind and body. Clearly, he wasn’t in balance.

Knowing my role as his mom and his sports psychologist, I texted back: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off AGAINST the wind. Not with it. – Henry Ford.”

And that’s exactly what I plan tell my yoga students, too, give or take.

Because that’s the thing with life. There are always challenges. But it’s important to see them in their proper context – as opportunities, not hindrances.

My boy eventually recalibrated his perspective in time for finals and used the challenges of the hard floor and the disorganized meet as new fuel for his competitive fire. And with that fire, he won second place – and earned valuable points towards his end goal of Worlds.

The same is true on the yoga mat as it is in life. Challenging poses present opportunities for growth. If we let them.

Crow. Dancer. Wheel. Even downward-facing dog. What feels impossible today, is possible tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. With continued effort, patience and a little bit of perspective.

Because airplanes take off against the wind, not with it.

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