Spar Though Your Heart Is Breaking

brucelee smile

If I had abs like that I’d never stop smiling.

At the end of Tuesday night’s yoga class we quietly transitioned from savasna to the fetal position. Throughout the hour our teacher encouraged us to go big, take life, and when necessary, let go. “You can breathe through the tension, smile in discomfort, and use strength you didn’t know you had,” he said before summoning us to sit up. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I have had to face discomfort and uncertainty and tap into a strength I didn’t know I had. I’ve had to let go.

I usually don’t set intentions during yoga class but that night I decided to practice a “loving kindness” meditation, something I’d picked up at a yoga retreat. Throughout my practice I thought about a person who is hurting and facing their own pain and tension and discomfort. I directed energy of peace and comfort during the class, reminding myself to get back on track when my mind wandered. I could not be responsible for this person’s happiness or emotions, but I could send feel-good vibes and well-wishes.

During our final backbend, wheel pose, my teacher put a cloth belt under my lower back and helped me flip up to standing and then bend backwards toward the ground about three times. “It’s scary!” I whispered as I flew up to face him and then fell back again, but I made it back safely to the ground in one piece. I would like to think that this person who is suffering will take comfort in fact that they will survive and land in one piece.

I tried to hold my mindset of peace and positivity during tonight’s taekwondo class too, which seems a little at odds with the purpose of sparring, but for some reason it works. I knew I needed to go big and take my life back, and part of that involves yanking myself out of my fog, throwing myself back into my passions, and remaining focused on my goals. If anything it was a welcome distraction, and as usual we had a lot of fun, hard work, and lot of laughs.

Thanks to a broken A/C, muggy Texas spring weather, and a dobok that doesn’t breathe I was so red that my face took on a charcoal gray tint and I had more than one moment of being dizzy. I got kicked in the head, knocked to the floor, and bashed against the wall. And I had a BLAST. I breathed through the tension and I even smiled in the extreme discomfort. (Don’t worry, none of the hard blows hurt. I’m as padded up as Randy in “A Christmas Story.”)

randy-snow-suit-a-christmas-story-2-1

I’m ready for sparring!

I’m still pretty bad at sparring. I get frustrated, I’m slow, and my body won’t obey my brain’s (or instructors’) commands. It’s uncomfortable, stressful, and exposes all my flaws. But it also reminds me that I have more strength than I thought I did in a scary situation. I’m able to breathe through the tension and smile in discomfort, and make it back to my feet safely and in one piece. I’m a fighter after all.

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