Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It's a Mind Game

Oh the mind games we put ourselves through while we're working out!

I've been thinking about this lately (and no, this is not one of the things I was thinking about during Jazzercise or yoga). I've heard friends who are runners say that it's a mind game pushing themselves to keep running moreso than a physical one. I have yoga instructors that start class in child's pose talking us through getting out of our daily lives and onto our mat. I started thinking about - what do I really have going on in my mind when I'm at Jazzercise or when I'm at yoga, or perhaps out walking or on the treadmill? what is motivating me?

I usually start Jazzercise class by getting there early, claiming my favorite spot and doing some stretching. At this point I'm usually thinking about my day and what I have planned, or maybe chatting with one of the other women before class begins. As our first warm up song starts I'm listening to the instructor and the music, but my head isn't yet 'in the game' - still running through my mind is often that to do list for the day. By the second song I'm focused on doing the moves correctly and giving all my energy (after all, it's not worth going if you're going to half-ass your workout, imho). By the 3rd song I'm feeling great and thinking how happy I am that I came to Jazzercise today. As we move into 'heavy' songs, I'm completely focused on what I'm doing - breathing, my energy and effort, getting the steps and moves correctly - basically doing my best! I start to run little challenges in my mind - staying at high impact for the entire song, lifting my leg up higher, holding my tummy in, jumping a little higher, bending a little lower, using heavier weights, etc. At some point during a really tough class when I'm dripping sweat, breathing heavy and running for my water bottle, hoping the next song isn't as hard, I might even sneak a glance at the clock - and then feel instant guilt because I AM enjoying myself and I am doing something good for my body. Usually about that time the next song slows down and I'm happy again. Then somewhere in the middle of a killer leg or ab routine on the floor or on the ball, I start wondering again when the song is going to end, then the next second thankful I came to class and how strong and healthy it makes me feel. What am I striving for? Perfection in some way I suppose. Imitation of the instructor. Perhaps it all stems from dance classes as a child, or my general work ethic that I've approached any task with - to excel and be the best. The best what? The best me, of course, but I admit, it's difficult not to compare yourself to others as a gauge for how well you are doing too and what your progress is. I've just always done that in so many things in life, it's like my mind is trained to do so.

And so we come to my biggest mind game right now. Yoga. It's totally different from Jazzercise. Intellectually I realize that I have to make it all about me and celebrate my own personal progress. Yoga is a very personal thing. I am at class early, stretching, coming into my own mind and place on my mat, blocking out everything else - it's about me. I get that - intellectually. Really, I do. I've read all the 'tips for beginners' or posts on Yoga Journal's website about 'what I wish I realized as a beginner', or commentary on some of the blogs I read. I understand what they are all saying. Thad tells me the same thing - after a class when I'm frustrated, he gets angry with me for being so hard on myself. I just don't know how to convince myself to feel differently is the problem. I'm frustrated I can't do poses it seems everyone else can do - even trying to practice resting on the top of my head to attempt being able to do tripod or a headstand at some point ever frustrates me - I can't even get to crow pose, everything else seems impossible that I'll ever be able to do it. I'm annoyed with myself that I don't seem to have the upper body strength to properly and completely go from high plank to low plank in the essential chatarunga flow - something so simple. I feel like I'm in such good shape right now, maybe even better than high school in some ways - and I get into a yoga class and feel like I've been a couch potato or something. Maybe I just hate being a beginner at anything. I don't always feel comfortable asking for help or  a question because everyone in the power yoga class feels so beyond where I'm at - I don't want to waste their time and I don't want to call attention to myself and what I can't do either. ugh! I still get a lot more out of the power yoga class than when I've gone to a basics class though, but sometimes that means I just feel like I don't belong there. I also realize that others in the class probably do not think that at all. I know it's probably these feelings that are going to make it even harder for me to move forward in yoga, but I just am not sure how to get beyond them. I leave class feeling good, but also often frustrated with myself. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of points in class when I'm feeling pretty great - when my balance is 'on', when I feel myself deeper in a pose, twisting further, taking a chance and trying something, figuring out how a pose is supposed to feel, strong on my mat and enjoying a stretch - those are all great things and make me happy that I'm at yoga. And another wonderful thing - when I'm at yoga, my mind is entirely 'there' and on what I am doing - I'm not thinking about my to do list or how much time is left in class - I'm living in the moment - (I suppose that proves how it's all about the mind-body connection). It's just the frustrating moments and the feelings of inadequacy that seem to be getting in the way and I just don't know how to make myself not feel that way and instead just feel good about what I am progressing with. It's all in my mind. Just not sure how to fix it. ugh.

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