Recently, I’ve found myself in positions I’d really rather not be in. This goes for work life, day to day tasks and personal life. Being uncomfortable can be absolutely nerve-wracking for some people, and that’s actually a good thing! Some people may strongly disagree, but I’ll do my best to explain what I’m getting at here with a few short examples.
The other day, I decided to purchase a book. It’s called The Real Book and it has a collection of jazz standards that musicians should really give themselves time to learn. I’ve been playing guitar for 10 years this year and have branched out into other instruments. I’ve done 4 years of formal music school and played many gigs both domestic and international. Some people would consider me a very confident musician, but here’s where all that starts to trail off into something else. I went through a few of the standards and found out two things. One: I really enjoy playing the jazz standards I can play and two: there are a lot of chords in this god damn book that make me so frustrated and uneasy- not to mention all of these notes that I can’t sight read.
This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I’ve been playing music for 10 years and for some reason I’m all of a sudden stumped by a bunch of chords? Surely if I can pick up a metal song by ear within an hour I should be able to play jazzy chord progressions. Wrong.
This discomfort gives me the drive to want to move forward with my musicianship and mature as one. The unfortunate thing is that there are so many of us that take this feeling of discomfort and try to push it away and not use it to better themselves. If you’re comfortable then you’re in routine. If you’re in routine you’re not moving forward, and if you’re not moving forward then where are you? At the exact same place you were when you started to get comfortable. That feeling of being uncomfortable is your friend. Why should we settle for stagnation when we can move forward at the cost of a bit of stress?
I invited a friend of mine over a few hours before a gig. We played jazz standards. There was a lot I didn’t understand and a lot he understood. He tried to get me to play some funky chords and show me all kinds of chord replacements. I felt like an idiot for a split-second and then realized that I was no idiot. I’ve just been in my comfortable pentatonic solo power chord chug chug box for so long that I was unhappy with the fact that I couldn’t quite grasp fully what he was talking about. I took that feeling of being uncomfortable and did my best to turn it into energy to focus on learning and I did a pretty good job of keeping up with the jazz man. By the time I went up on stage to play classic rock, I felt like it was absolutely no problem at all.
There are a lot of uneasy feelings that I deal with every now and again. I used to have a tendency to push them to the back of my head and let them just sit there. Whenever I would encounter a situation that would call on one of those uneasy feelings, I’d panic and bail. I never really dealt with those uneasy emotions until I finally said stop. Over time, I’ve been forcing myself to just deal with these situations. Running away will just keep me from growing as a human being and that’s the last thing I want to do. My new years resolution is always to be better today than I was yesterday. How can I follow through with that without being uncomfortable every now and then? I can’t. So I embrace these feelings of discomfort and power through uncomfortable situations. The reward? I’ve gained a new skill. I can now deal with that problem when it comes up again and it will be easier next time. I didn’t know how to do said thing. I got uncomfortable at the thought of making a mistake. I made mistakes. I learned to do said thing. Problem solved.
Go out there and get uncomfortable. Okay, maybe not willingly, but do something you’ve been afraid to do. Say something you’ve been wanting to say, but say it without trying to hurt people. Pick up that instrument you’ve been wanting to learn. Sing in the shower even though people said you can’t sing and for the sake of everyone on the planet, do it for no one other than yourself.
So it’s been around 6 or 7 days since I started following a yoga routine that I do daily. I’ve been very fond of yoga poses for two years now and have used many of them to give me a quick fix with any tension I had in my body. I never could say though that I had practiced yoga. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Yoga is not a joke. I consider myself to be in very good shape, and I’d like to think of myself as flexible in a practical way. After practicing yoga daily for around a week or so- I can’t say I’m flexible. A flexibility routine winds me. The deep stretches burn (in the good way) and when I’m through with the routine, I’m a sweaty mess. Albeit a very happy sweaty mess. There’s something about stretching your body to the point of total relaxation that deepens your connection with yourself. When you’re in the final corpse pose of the session you feel tired, but euphoric and refreshed. The fun starts when we get into strength and balance routines. Somehow I have not yet managed to fall flat onto my face during these routines, but boy do my muscles burn. A 30 minute intermediate strength session really takes a toll on the body and you feel like you had a proper work out.
Yoga is deeply relaxing. This is usually obvious to some people before the actually do a proper routine. Even during high intensity yoga sessions you come out relaxed. So doing a routine built on a low-intensity relaxation scheme should be deeply relaxing, right? I can give that a definite yes. I do two sessions a day. One workout session sometime during the day (I make sure it’s been at least two hours since I last ate before I start) and one during the night to stretch out and relax. I’ve been sleeping better every night. The tension we build up in our bodies during daily life is something we need to get rid of before we crawl up into bed and drift of to dream land. It usually takes me two hours to fall asleep, but now I knock out much earlier and wake up more refreshed and in a better mood. Even a 10 minute session works wonders for your physical and mental health.
Yoga teaches you to listen to your body. A vital part of yoga is listening to your body whilst you’re going through a routine. A friend of mine said that if you’re in a certain pose and you can’t breathe down into your belly- you’re over-stretching. If you don’t listen to what your body is telling you when you’re practicing yoga, you will definitely end up hurting yourself in the process. Here’s the beautiful part though. The poses are perfect. They are made for our bodies and help us align ourselves so we can reach balance. If you listen to your body rather than your ego whilst practicing yoga then you will never do harm to yourself. An added bonus of this is that your body starts to tell you what food you need during the day. I’ve found that my body all of a sudden wants more fruit in its diet and that’s not a problem anymore. I happily eat more fruit now and less junk (junk food is definitely still in my diet though, this is a slow process).
Yoga teaches you self-discipline and patience. Have you even tried to hold a half-moon pose fora minute? If you have and succeeded then give yourself a huge hug. Some of these poses and routines require so much self discipline to hold. If you don’t have patience, you sure as hell will get some with yoga practice. Medidative yoga helps a lot here. Laying down in corpse and watching your thoughts from a distance for 20 minutes without a single body movement requires discipline. You can bring this into every day life and I promise you will be a better person afterwards.
Everyone should practice yoga. From age 0 until age dead. Either for a good workout or just even a few low intensity poses will do wonders for your physical and mental health. Your days will be better. You will be happier. You’ll eat better and you’ll be more thankful for everything that happens to you. The more good you do to yourself, the better you will be to others and that’s just another way to spread out any positive energy that we can muster into a world that can seem rather grey every now and then. Don’t buy a mat. You don’t have to buy anything other than a yoga book, an app or classes with a guru. Use your bed covers if you have to and use old clothes if you have to. Do yoga naked if that makes you feel good. Yoga is so readily accessible now and days that you can even start right now.
Yes right now. Go on, I’ll watch.
I’ll just go and do a routine now, feel free to join.