Thursday, March 15, 2012

Practice makes perfect?

I know this is hard to believe, but I was a child.  Actually, for people who have only known me for a year or so, it probably actually IS hard to believe.  But, for the people I've known forever, well, they all know the truth.
I was on the volleyball team in 7th grade (the year they let everyone onto the "team" because they were building our self esteem).  I found the speech team in 8th grade, and the only time I set foot into a gym after that was for phy ed class...and then I was totally one of those girls who lollygagged getting changed into my gym clothes, held the wall up for as much of class as possible, waved my arms around when the teacher was looking, and was more concerned about getting my hair back to "perfect" before the next class.

But I digress.

When I began my yoga journey over 4 years ago, my goal was not to become a hardcore athlete.  The words "athletic," "flexible," and "strong" just never applied to me, and I figured that, like becoming a figure skater or professional dancer, my dreams of becoming an athlete were destined to be abandoned with the reality of, well, reality.  And for a few years, I practiced my yoga.  Then I decide that yeah, sure, I'd get my certification and teach the yoga.  Then my yoga would be free!  And, when I did my teacher training, I discovered something: sometime over the last two years, I had lengthened my hamstrings enough to touch my toes--something I had never, ever been able to do.  Not even when I was, like, five.  And I looked around at all the beginners in my classes and thought "I used to look just like you when I was new....and now I don't."

Fast forward to this week, when, following my spin class, the owner of the studio approached me and asked if I taught bootcamp classes.  After I picked myself up off the floor and wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes, I realized he was serious.  And I realized that, over the last six months or so, I've been slowly transforming myself.  Losing weight for Mexico led to starting spinning classes and watching what I ate.  Watching what I ate led to healthier food choices and to learning how to cook things at home.  I used to eat out 5-6 times a I would have to look at a calendar to see the last time I ate a meal I didn't prepare myself.  And I thought about how I've been "practicing" all of these behaviors, with no real end point in sight, and how it's led to unbelievable success.  Whereas if someone had told me 6 months ago to cook a meal of tilapia, egg whites, and wilted spinach like this: 

Again with the laughter.  

What I've learned, then, is that practicing something actually makes you better at it.  I know--earth shattering, right?  But this little lightbulb is what lit my path to saying "yes" to enrolling in Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training today.  A few months ago, a good friend said "You should totally do YSTT."  I laughed (I laugh a lot) and said "Never.  I will never, ever, do sculpt training.  I'm ridiculous at sculpt."  But I thought "Well, if you practice it, maybe you won't be ridiculous at sculpt anymore."

And so I went to sculpt class tonight.  And in my head, rather than think "oh my gosh, you suck at this. Dude, breathe right! Oh, man, please just try not to hurt or embarrass yourself" I thought, instead, "Okay, here's something you need to practice.  Here's something that you can master if you spend some time with it.  Look--you're way better at this than you were the last time you tried it!"

Practicing.  I make my students do it all day long.  Then I send them home with more practice to do. I make them practice on their own, with a partner, in groups, over and over again.  And I expect them to do it--because how else will they become good at it??

And behold, the teacher becomes the student.


Josie said...

I just discovered beginner's yoga about a year ago. Due to the hemiplegia after my brain tumor, if I don't regularly stretch out my leg, I could be in for some serious trouble down the road. This blog is wonderful.

Kelly Flanigan said...

Thanks for reading, Josie! I'm so glad that you found yoga and that it's working for your recovery :)