Thursday, January 20, 2011

Come on Paul

So, when I was a little kid, I could not play sports very well.  It wasn't that I was out of shape, or uncoordinated, or short, or that I didn't like sports, it was that I wasn't competitive.  I really didn't care if we won or lost, I just enjoyed being there.  There was even a time I played city league basketball and there was a kid on our team who was like, two feet taller than everyone else who did nothing but drive the lane.  You'd think that I would have been mad at that and yelled and stuff, oh no, I just went to where the coach told me to go, and folded my arms, waiting for him to drive it.  He never passed, what was the point of me freaking out about it?  My Grandpa still holds that I was praying for the ball :).

With those upbringings, I went on my mission.  A little known fact is that Mormons actually do play sports (right Vinny ;)).  And it was in the last city that I lived in that I had a companion who loved sports.  All sports.  And what he loved most of all, was competition.  We played basketball, soccer, and football, and eventually, that competitiveness rubbed off. Suddenly, I became a winner.  Not in the winner/loser type of way, in the "I feel a strong desire to win, and feel disappointed if I don't."

This has been both a joy and a curse.  I've learned to slough it off in most situations where it's not appropriate, like in board games with family and stuff, but have still felt it about physical games.  It has made it so that I perform better than I normally would at things I haven't done in a while.  I'm still not great at them, but I certainly hold my own, and don't fold my arms.  That aggressive, competitive nature that usually comes naturally to people, did not come naturally for me.  I had to learn it.  And once I felt what it was like to be competitive, it was a little addictive.  I began being a little competitive in classes, in online debates, and I assume, in other subtle ways that have slipped by my consciousness.  The issue with being competitive though, is that it stresses you out.

So, I took Yoga.  And for the first time in a long time, I did something physical without feeling competitive.  I didn't notice it last week, I just noticed that Yoga was hard.  I stood in the poses, and I focused on them.  Only them.  Sun Salutation A, Sun Salutation B, breath, shoulders back, pelvic loop, and spine alignment.  And breath.  I worked myself as hard as I could without even noticing there was anyone there but me and the instructor.  And when I left, oh, I can't even describe the feeling of euphoria that I felt.  And wasn't that the point?  This isn't a work out class for me, it's a time for meditation.  A time to think about one simple thing at a time:  my pose, my breathe, my being.

I tell you all of this to bring you with me to yesterday afternoon.  I sat next to a guy in Yoga class, and I don't usually talk to others, but thought it might be a good idea to get to know people.  Other people in the class talked and it seemed nice. So, I introduced myself and talked for a bit.  Then, the lights went off, the teacher's voice started, and I was in my own world. Well, it was difficult.  As always, I pushed myself to do everything correctly, and in my  two years of workout absence I've gained some fat that doesn't have more muscle attached to it, and Yoga is all about lifting yourself with yourself.  I began to feel sick, a little from the workout, a little from the space heaters in the room, and a little from breathing my own sweat.  So, instead of throwing up, I left Warrior's Pose Two, and stood for a moment.  The whole time the teacher kept saying to make sure to listen to our bodies, and not to push ourselves too hard.  I took this to mean that she didn't want us barfing on the floor, so I thought I would rest.  She also kept saying that she wasn't judging us, no one was judging us, and that we shouldn't judge ourselves.  She said that it is natural to be competitive, but to just do this for us, and if we needed a break, to take one.  All of this culminated into me stopping and just focusing on breathing, and suddenly, from the mat next to me, comes the voice of the guy I just met twenty minutes ago.
"Come on Paul!"
"Uh..." I was honestly taken aback a little, "I'm about to throw up man."
The workout continues and I've lost the ability to just focus on me.  I try to get it back, but can do nothing but look around at the people who are doing the poses when I'm not.  So, I start doing the poses again.  I luckily had the good sense to keep resting when I felt sick to my stomach, but continued comparing myself to everyone else.  Finally, the end of the class period comes, and with it comes the voice of my new found trainer.
"Rough day huh?"
"Yeah, I haven't worked out in literally two years and it's catching up with me."
"Yeah, I really don't work out either, well, I guess I'm a cyclist..."
I honestly wanted to punch him.
"Well, you know, I usually do some of the easier poses at home, and even if you just stand while flexing all your muscles, it really helps in here."
I didn't even answer, I just picked up my mat, block and strap, and walked them to the storage room.

Now, I'm not mad at him (not much anyway); he just sees the class differently than I do.  He sees it as a workout class, like aerobics.  And if we were in aerobics I would appreciate his feedback.  I would need to hear, "come on Paul," to keep me swinging my arms and pushing myself to get the best work out possible.  The issue is that I see it as a meditation class, which means that I don't want feedback.  I don't want criticism, and I don't want compliments either.  The only thing I want to hear from anyone in there is that it was nice to have me there.  That they like my aura, or something chill and non-evaluating.  I left the class without that wonderful feeling of no stress and being one with the world.  All I could think about was how much I sucked at Yoga.

I am going to shake off his little constructive comments and not talk to anyone next class.  I'm there for me, so I'll just focus on me.  I refuse to let this one bad experience ruin Yoga for me.  My wife and I even bought mats online last night with Christmas money we got from people.  It makes me feel great, and that's what matters.


  1. And there was me thinking that the teachers at school thought they were being 'real' when they said sports were all about team work and improving one's charachter: but you're right! Sports are about competitiveness. I do hope your new yoga 'friend' won't start cheering you on during every class! What a git!

  2. I have a son who is non-competative. It is just not in him. Maybe I should introduce him to Yoga.

  3. i hope you don't let this guy distract you in the future for the real reason you are there! the one thing i have learned in my very very limited yoga exercise is that for any reason you cannot do it, just breathe... it's about relaxing your mind...this guy needs to learn this and perhaps in time he will learn it off someone like you.

  4. Now I feel bad again...


    Truth be told I've never been into sports (except thai-boxing). Even while doing a martial art in a gym full of muscle-heads, I've managed to remain blissfully non-competitive up to now.

    Hopefully, if that guy you talked to keeps at it he may eventually get the point.

  5. Exactly, don't let one person get you down. You know why you are there and that's all that matters.
    My son is not sporty, in fact he's quite unco-ordinated, but he does do karate and works hard at it.

  6. Another reason to like you. Competitiveness is so useless when it's used like a medal to hang around one's neck. Just enjoy yourself.

  7. @MM
    It's very true. They were lying to all of us. And I"m just not going to sit by him and hope that fixes the problem.

    It's worth a shot. I can't promise he'll fall in love with it, but it works for this non-competative guy.

    You're totally right, from my limited experience also. I hope that he learns it, or at least learns to not talk about it to anyone.

    That's so cool that you do Thai Boxing. Yeah, I hope he eventually does. I think he's only 18 or something though, so we can't be too hard on him.

    That's so cool he does Karate. I did Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when I was young and loved it.

    I completely agree with you. Competativeness has it's place and time, but not in my Yoga routine.