What My Yoga Class Taught Me About Motivation

Monday was a rough day.

Usually Mondays are not too bad for me. I know there’s the usual “case of the Mondays” that gets set around online, but honestly I believe that derives from this constant perspective that Mondays suck. I don’t buy into that; Mondays for me are a source of motivation. It’s a fresh week, a fresh start.

This past Monday I was not feeling it. I didn’t want to go to work. It was chilly and kind of drizzly; not even to say it was raining, but unpleasant enough to want to stay outside for long. I had cleaned the entire house for the past week and there was still more to clean (mess just doesn’t go away. Like ever). I had so much stuff I wanted/needed to do, but all I did was sit on my bed and play some stupid game on my phone.

I was miserable. I wasn’t feeling motivated enough to get anything done, but then just sitting there being lazy made me feel terrible. It was this vicious cycle where I didn’t want to do anything, and then I would feel bad about myself for not doing anything.

Then of course, I fell into the wormhole of “oh my god what am I doing with my life???” and that made itΒ wayΒ worse.

I convinced myself to go to yoga and almost cried the whole car ride to the studio. I was distracted and unenergized; I fretted being on my mat would just make me feel worse.

What My Yoga Class Taught Me About Motivation

As soon as I stepped into the studio my whole demeanor changed. A woman I didn’t know smiled at me and made a joke I couldn’t hear but I laughed to be polite. I unrolled my mat and went back into the lobby to make myself a cup of tea (something IΒ rarely do. Usually I like to sit down on my mat and pretend to be invisible while everyone else trickles in). Then I sat down on my meditation cushion and cuddled the cup in my hands to warm myself up and felt better.

I don’t know what it was in those five minutes that made me feel better. Was it getting out of my house? Was it physically warming up? Drinking tea? The woman smiling at me? Or was it something more spiritual, like the ethos of the studio had seeped into my skin?

I’m not sure. I’m not really invested in finding out.

At the front wall of my yoga studio there’s an erase board painted on the wall with a soft purple paint. I think the owner jots down notes on it when he teaches his yoga instructor classes and leaves them up throughout the week. On the right side of the notes, up in a high corner of the room, is a door.

I initially thought the door was covering up a vent or switch board or something mechanical and the door was there to make it aesthetically pleasing.

To the left of the board is a wooden ladder, leaning against the wall. On the bottom rungs of the ladder hold a couple candles and sometimes a few flowers, but not a lot of stuff.

During a class many moons again with the owner of the studio, he pointed to the ladder against the wall.

“Sometimes,” he said, “the hardest part is standing at the bottom of the ladder and thinking, ‘now how am I supposed to get over there?'”

He pointed to the door on the other side of where he was standing.

“You think,” he continued, “there’s no way you can possibly jump from that ladder to that door. There’s no way.

“Immediately when you start from the bottom thinking things like that, it makes it impossible to reach that door. You’re thinking to much. You’re not doing the work, you’re just thinking and planning. That’s not working.

“So start climbing. Practice. Work your way up the rungs of the ladder by practicing. And when you reach the top of the ladder,” he paused before pointing back to the door, “you’ll realize it’s not as much of a jump as it looked from the floor.”

I sat on my mat Monday night with my tea and stared at the door remembering his dharma talk. He was clearly talking about yoga poses and how some asanas can seem unattainable from seeing a picture or watching your neighbor do it next to you. But if you practice eventually your body will get there before your mind catches up to it.

However, I think it applies to more than just the poses. On Monday I was thinking too much. I was thinking of all the things I needed to do, all the things I wanted to do, and then all the things I wasn’t doing. I brought myself down before I gave myself the chance to bring myself back up. If I had just started climbing up the rungs of the ladder, working on something little by little, it would’ve brought me back up.

Sometimes our thoughts get in the way of our actions. I’m a thinker, a plotter, a planner. I like to have my course of action laid out meticulously in front of me. I’m not naive enough to think I’ll have the opportunity to plan for everything. Sometimes you just have to start working and let your thoughts catch up to you.

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