A couple weeks ago, I put my car into storage and started riding my bike. Now, I am not what you’d call a good bike rider. My ass hurts, my thighs ache, and grease somehow gets smeared all over my calves. Small children on tricycles pass me on the street.
While my body may be used to yoga, riding a bike challenges me in a completely different way. Muscles get tightened rather than lengthened; cardio work is a main component rather than a by-product. And although riding a bike is undoubtedly good for me, it is very humbling and hard.
As I was riding to work last week, however, I noticed a small change. It had become just the slightest bit easier.
I noticed this because I was actually able to think about something other than my screaming legs.
But I hadn’t become suddenly stronger; I was just becoming accustomed to the pain. Through practice, I was slowly getting used to this new kind of stress. In that moment, I had a mini-revelation: if it took practice for me to get used to physical discomfort, why should mental discomfort be any different?
As obvious as the connection is, riding my bike reminded me that we are always going to have to move through discomfort when trying something new. We don’t have the strength when we start. It’s something that we have to practice in order to get.
Exercising new muscles – whether they’re physical or psychological – requires patience, compassion, and diligence. So don’t be hard on yourself if your thighs are burning (literally or metaphorically). Stay with it. As Pattabhi Jois says, “Practice, practice, and all is coming.”
A necessary side note: After I wrote this blog, I found this video clip of Shri K Pattabhi Jois. He’s the original purveyor of “Just Do It.” He passed from this world on May 18th, 2009 and has left the world the incredibly legacy of Ashtanga Yoga. Thank you, Guruji. You are missed.