On attachment and change…AKA when Body Combat and yoga collide

It’s been years since I set foot in a gym. Nasty places, populated by impossibly energetic personal trainers who have clearly missed their calling as army drill sergeants, grunting men with no necks and matchstick thin women who look like they could benchpress me, no problem.

So why was I here, on a freezing Thursday evening, nervously sipping water as I waited for my Body Combat class to start?

Because, much as it pains me to admit it, my beloved yoga practice is no longer enough to keep the dreaded kilo-creep at bay. I’ve been vinyasa-ing my little heart out, eating salad, and still they keep on coming!

(As a side note, I’m fully aware that weight loss is not the primary reason for practicing yoga. But when it’s pretty much the only form of exercise I actually enjoy – or so I thought, turns out boxing is awesome! – it has to perform double-duty.)

Anyway. I kicked, punched and kata-ed my way through 55 minutes of class, got suitably red-faced and sweaty and went back home to bask in my own self-satisfied, post-exercise glow.

The next day, my upper arms and shoulders felt much the same as after my very first Ashtanga class – that is, I could barely move them (though post-Ashtanga was much, much worse). So when I got home from work, I unrolled my yoga mat and set about my practice, the plan being to give my shoulders and arms a good stretch. The reality? I stubbornly ignored the aching stiffness and muscled my way through chatarangas, arm balances and binds. I did have the foresight, however, to give headstand a miss.

The Marichi poses, in particular, are a bugger at the best of times. Add in stiff shoulders and you’ve got a recipe for frustration and disappointment. I huffed and puffed (and not in a good way) myself almost to the point of tears, as my ego popped out for a cheery hello:

THIS IS MY PRACTICE! I ALWAYS BIND IN MARICHI A THROUGH C AND I AM BINDING TODAY, MUSCLE SORENESS BE DAMNED!

Please shut up, ego, you’re going to get someone hurt.

What surprised me the most was the ferocity of my reaction to “not being able to practice the way I always do”. I was more than frustrated. I was ANGRY. Something had come between me and my practice!

It was only after the muscle soreness had disappeared, and my practice back to “normal”, that I was able to reflect on what such a minor challenge said about me and my approach to my practice.

Attachment, attachment, attachment.

And, as most of us have probably figured out by now, attachment can only ever lead to suffering.

When you rely on a person, or object, or idea as a source of happiness or measure of success, and then that person, or object, or idea is taken away, you experience a sense of loss, sadness, loneliness, despair, failure. You suffer.

So when you rely on yout ability to complete a certain vinyasa sequence or achieve a certain pose as a measure of your ability and worth as a yogi, and then one day, for whatever reason, you fail, you feel disappointed, frustrated, impatient, angry. You suffer.

One of the great things about yoga is that we take the lessons learned on the mat, out into the world. Through our practice we learn that every day is different, that we are different, from moment to moment. Sometimes we can balance in headstand like a champion, other days we struggle to get our toes off the floor. Nothing stays the same. EVERYTHING changes – our practice, our homes, our jobs, our loves, our friends, our interests. And this is how it should be. This is life, moving us forward on our path.

Let’s also consider that everything – us, that favourite photo, your car – is just energy. And according to Physics 101, energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed. So next time you feel that you have “lost” or “failed” something, remember this – you have also gained something new.

And while change is not something we always have control over, we can control how we respond to it – with fear, anger and resistance, or with grace, love and surrender.

Next time, I know which one I’m choosing.

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