Third year McIntire School of Commerce student Heidi Collins shares a new experience with yoga during her time in Copenhagen, Denmark.
This past week I decided to try something new. My good friend Kendall, a yoga enthusiast, encouraged me to do Bikram Yoga with her. I purchased a week of these hot yoga classes so popular amongst the Danes, and have been ending my school days practicing hot yoga while the cold snow falls outside.
Naturally energetic, restless, and always on the go, particularly now while I am immersed in a brand new country and culture, I had not taken the time to slow down and relax. The 90 minute class consists of 26 poses done twice each, combining intense concentration, patience, determination, and self-control to achieve the proper balance. Balance is not easy though. Once you enter a pose, you need to focus on every muscle and limb to maintain the position. It is a fight amidst struggles and falls to achieve the proper stability and move forward to the next pose.
These past few yoga classes have really made me realize the application of yoga to life, which the Danes have truly incorprated into their culture and lifestyle. Life is all about achieving balance. Balance between school and family; between work and play; between movement and rest; between cold and warmth. Between indulgence and restraint; between tradition and modernity; between grandeur and simplicity; between stress and tranquility.
I’ve talked in previous posts about the balanced lifestyle of the Danes, and the satisfaction and gratitude that comes with it. Like trying to strike the balance of a yoga pose, striking a balance in one’s life will never be easy. In fact, we will flail in nearly every pose, and sometimes fall down. When this happens, it is very easy to become frustrated, to get upset, and even to give up. We can take the seemingly constant work and struggles in life, the anxiety that ensues, and the frustration that mounts, to never let ourselves unwind and savor life. I am guilty of having done this, and even do so now. Striking a balance in life is not easy. Letting the hardships consume us and keep us down, not ready to stand back up and try again, is so tempting. Learning when to stop and be satisfied with what has been done is so hard.
Whenever we start something new, something difficult, something scary, and something unknown, we will not be able to settle into the balance immediately. There will be stress. There will be challenges. There will be disappointment. There will be fear. But what Bikram Yoga has taught me, is that amidst the tension every moment of life may bring, it is possible to let go and relax. It is possible to achieve poise and stability after the initial wobbles. And even when we think we have the position perfected – even when we feel on top of the world in our pose – it is still possible to lose focus within a blink of an eye and stumble, sometimes even fall down.
But guess what? We can always get back up. We can always try again. And we can always strike the pose and reach that balance again. We must never assume perfection will be achieved, because it won’t. You will never freeze into a pose and stay there forever, without another struggle or slip. We need to accept the imperfection of balance. The combination of effort and ease that balance demands. We need to seek balance, not perfection.
Every yoga class ends with Shavasana. While lying on your back, breathing deeply in and out through the nose, you enter a deep and meditative state of rest. Sometimes we all need this in life. Try it right now – close your eyes and think of these two words: “satisfaction” and “gratitude.” Life gives us so much to be content and grateful for. Don’t let the chaos of life let you lose sight of this.