The Star (Nairobi)

5 January 2013

Kenya: Changing My Mind

I have been practicing Bikram yoga for the last two and a half years. Whenever I mention this to people they envision a room filled with seated women in tight clothing who are self-indulgently focused on their breath.

I am sure that there are yoga classes like that but Bikram is not one of them, rather it is an intense 90 minute work-out in a hot and humid room.

We always do the same 26 postures in the same exact order. This sounds like it would be boring but the great thing is that as your world and life change around you constantly, your yoga practice then becomes a reliable gauge of the state of your body and mind because the postures and their sequence remain exactly the same.

Anyway, the other day after a class, I was trying to get into the advanced expression of one of the postures and one of the teachers stopped by to give me some pointers.

As we were chatting she mentioned that she thinks I give up too easily. As you can imagine, this is not easy to hear and I really wanted to dismiss her and her assessment of me.

Instead I have 'sat with it' for a few days and I have to admit, albeit begrudgingly, that she is right. I have been dealing with acute anemia since I was a teenager.

In very simple terms, anemia is a lack of enough red blood cells to carry oxygenated blood to your muscles and cells. Consequently, anemic people tire fast and our bodies do not perform well during exercise.

We get dizzy, light headed and can sometimes faint. When I first started yoga, my then teacher suggested that I pace myself so that I could get through the class.

Now two and a half years later, I am still behaving like a beginner and that is what my new teacher noticed because now that I am stronger it looks like I am giving up at the first sign of dizziness, I think 'stop!'. She suggested I work through the dizziness and see what happens.

The thing with a hot yoga room is that you get to see people without artifice. That face or mask that we all put on so that we can get through the day falls apart in a hot humid room as you struggle to get your body into these postures.

You really get to see what people are made of, do they give up, do they work hard, do they draw attention to themselves because they are uncomfortable or do they berate themselves?

It is all there. Knowing this made it impossible to dismiss my teacher's assessment and in fact I am now looking at other areas of my life to see if it is true... do I give up?

I have come to the conclusion that while I do not give up, there are choices that I made a few years ago because they helped me through something, and I am still living my life like those decisions are still relevant.

In the same way that my old teacher and I decided that I should pace myself when I was first starting yoga and I am still doing it now years later, there are other decisions that I made years ago and they now need reevaluation.

It does not sound like much, but that is my new year's resolution: to ditch decisions that I made in the past that no longer serve me.

Can you imagine changing your mind? I am finding the concept alone very liberating and who knows who I will be at the end of 2013? It is very exciting. Happy New Year!

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