By YS Instructor, Christopher Roberson
One day, when I was a kid, my father asked me if I wanted to know the difference between a dog and a pig.
“When a dog gets shocked by an electric fence, he will never go near a hot wire again. But pigs…pigs will test the fence everyday. If the electric fence goes down, you end up spending the afternoon trying to herd them back onto the farm.” Pigs, it seems, push boundaries on a regular basis; whereas, dogs have a tendency to “learn their lesson” the first time around.
Starting out as children, we learn valuable lessons from our mistakes. Eat before swimming, and you’ll get cramps. Touch a hot stove, and you’ll get burned. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.”
I’ve worked with a lot of beginner yogis, and at some point certain poses create fear and discomfort. Stories are created in our minds that talk us in and out of toying with new places. “If I lift both feet in Crow, I’ll surely fall flat on my face,” is a very real acknowledgment of uncertainty, and I have heard it many times. I will let you in on a secret: falling on your face from 18 inches off the ground won’t kill you. Falling down isn’t even indicative of failure; it’s a sign of perseverance, assuming you get back up again.
We can’t possibly know our limits until we test them. Up to that point, it’s not a limit; it’s the idea of a limit. In order to be the best person you can be, push your comfort zone continuously and see what happens.
Comfort and complacency is our mind telling us we are safe. But instead of being safe, what we really are is immobile. We are safely locked behind the fence, living day to day in the same place, and closing ourselves off to growth because we don’t want to get shocked.
In her book Improv Wisdom, Patricia Ryan Madson dispenses a variety of improvisational maxims that coincide with real world challenges. In “Don’t Prepare,” she states that confidence follows success. Her context for this statement is primarily in regards to stage fright, but its application extends onto our yoga mats and into the world around us. The joy of success can’t ever happen if we don’t try to push past our fear of failure.
By letting go of tangible fears of anxiety and failure, we create the opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Real success doesn’t happen when we are afraid to try, and playing it safe doesn’t foster confidence.
I challenge you to explore the places you typically avoid. I’m not arguing that we all go out and touch hot stoves, or eat Chipotle before swimming laps, but there is always room to explore perceived restrictions and boundaries.
Explore your limitations and see what happens. If a pig can do it, so can you.