Saturday, January 19, 2013


I’ve started practicing yoga as part of my own quest for mindfulness, but also to gain the strength and flexibility for cheerleading.
Drawing a connection between yoga and mindfulness isn’t too far of a stretch. (Oh, pun definitely intended.) But mindfulness and cheerleading? Before training for “Blood, Sweat and Cheers”, I thought that cheerleading was an impersonal, rigid discipline that required perfection and precision above all. Not very zen. But although the routines aim to be sharp and homogenous, cheerleading hinges on the same mindfulness practice found in more conventionally “enlightened” activities.
Through my training, I’ve learned to be aware of the places my body holds tension. I can feel my creeping anxiety in my shoulders. Or my existential crisis du jour in my hips. I’ve learned that a feeling is literally felt, more than just an emotion that I ruminate on, theorize about and react to.
And most recently, I’ve learned that how I respond to physical challenges is the same way I react to challenges in my life.
Last week, we worked on toe-touch jumps and handstands. Every time, I would get halfway up in the air and then flail my legs and halt abruptly.  Although I was safe and supported, I would panic and stop myself from pushing further. I was convinced I wasn’t “ready” yet; I was too afraid to leave the ground. I kept kick-and-flailing long after all the other ladies stopped for a break. I felt stuck. 
Like a hurdler to the side of the head, I realized I was letting fear — not physical limitation — get the better of me. With this realization, I became mindful of the roadblock. And now it didn’t loom so large.
Today, I can’t do a headstand. Tomorrow, I likely won’t be able to do one either. But I’m not going to learn to strengthen my abs and kick my feet to the ceiling by reading about it or talking about it or trying and pulling out of it. I can’t just say I’m “not ready yet”. The skills and strength to do a handstand are learned by doing a handstand. Commiting 100% to trying it as though I already can. I’ll fail and I’ll fall. But I’ll be closer than every time I prepped and prepared only to pull myself down. 
Fear masquerades as self-sabotage, or a list of rational reasons why not, or the fateful word “someday”. Something deep within us whispers that failure has dire consequences, but failure is seldom more destructive than falling out of a handstand. We get dusty; We get back up. We recover and try again.  When pursuing our goals, fear hisses deceit. It promises we’ll make it eventually, but only if we train to perfection before we dare to do it. But in cheerleading, in yoga — and in life — the doing is the training.


(...Not actually about handstands.)

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