You know that saying about riding a bicycle? How, once you know how to ride a bicycle, you’ll always be able to ride a bicycle. Folks—friends—say it to reassure us that whatever IT is we used to be able to do (FILL IN THE BLANK) we'll still be able to do at some undetermined future date.
It’s a nice thought. In the same way Harold Hill’s If-you-think-you-can-you-can “Think System,” is an sure-fire way method for learning to play a flooglehorn.
Much as I—we?—wish it were, life isn’t a musical.
It could, in fact, make it worse: Having ridden a bicycle before, also means we know how tough it was to learn to ride in the first place.
And what about those falls we took? We fell then, we can fall now, harder.
The knowledge can make:
- The thought of doing something you haven’t done in a while scary.
- The thought of doing something you haven’t done badly in a long time, even scarier.
- The thought of trying to do something you used to be able to do and failing now, scarier still.
Last week, that rusty bicycle I tried getting back on is called Yoga.
After more than 2 months absence, I had planned to start back the week before. (Honest!) But, the yoga studio was closed for summer holidays. I feigned disappointment, while muffling relief:
It’s not my fault, I told my aching back.
I was up for it, I told my creaking joints.
Then, last Tuesday morning, the first day the Yoga studio was open, as I was taking Curtis to work so I could have the car and drive to yoga, I told myself, I really should stay home today; it’s not as if I haven’t been exercising; I've been walking and take the stairs; I’ll walk tonight; it’s a short week anyway; I’ll start yoga next week. . .
I had myself nearly convinced, then Curtis asked, “What time is yoga?”
Mistake #1: I told him about my plan.
Mistake #2: I went to Yoga!
This was a mistake! is definitely what I thought when it turned out I was the only student who turned up. It was just me and the instructor.
No one to hide behind. Nothing between me and that huge mirror. No one to follow.
The worst part was waiting for class to begin.
To make it worse, while I waited, my eyes wandered to the Astanga Yoga Chart on the wall.
I might have feigned a tummy attack and left. But I was afraid, with me being the only student there, Katherine might follow just to be sure I was all right. (My yoga instructors, Katherine and Erica, are that nice and caring.)
Then it went from bad to better: Going back to Yoga felt like going back to school. New but familiar.
Sure, there was a lot I didn’t know and some stuff I’d forgotten over the holiday.
But that was to be expected, wasn't it?
Then it got bad again.
You know that bicycle thing? It’s all about the rider. No one mentions the bike.
If the bike is new, jumping on a riding away might be a possibility. But . . .
If the bike is old, the chain’s rusted, the tires flat and worse for wear, it’s a whole different story . . . I’ll leave it at that.
Then it got really bad:
Once I limbered up a little and ground off some of the rust so I didn't have to worry about IF I could move, I began to worry about how I looked doing the moves. When I looked, I judged, then came disgust, then revulsion, then collapse—literally! Concentration lost, focus gone, I wobbled.
Then, I quit.
Not yoga. I quit trying to be MORE and accepted what I was. I let myself be a beginner again.
Following the advice my British choir director gave just after threatening to give me the boot: “Just sing the notes. That’s all I ask, just sing the notes.” Or in this case: Assume the position as best I could. It is called practicing yoga, so I did. I practiced.
And day two, I returned for a second class. And you know what?
But, I was easier on myself. Instead of worrying about what I couldn’t, I did what I could. Until, about 1/3 of the way through the class, when Erica told me to move my hand farther around my back into an even tighter pretzel, I tipped my head back and howled:
“Mimi! Julia! Pablo-Paco! Help! Save me!”
And we laughed, which must have dislodged some of the rougher bits of rust because after that class was: not prettier, but better, enjoyable even . . . in a Mr. Beanish painful to watch way. And while I didn't relearn all-most-many moves on the Yoga chart. I learned this:
There are tricks to getting back on the bicycle (whatever that bicycle might be). Maybe they’ll work for you, too:
- Tell someone your plan: It makes it harder to back out
- Set a timer: Set the time for the minimum allowable time. For example, one 50-minute yoga class; 15 minutes of writing. If you do more, great.
- Look ahead not back: Don’t think about what used to be or what you used to be. Start from now, ground zero, and go forward.
- Fake it till you make it: My mother always said “Give it three days!” That magic 3. She maintains it takes 3 days/times to break or make a habit. Three may not be enough, but the point’s the same, give it time.
- Be nice to yourself: Laugh. Holler if you want. You showed up!
In case you want to sing along, here's The Post Playlist:
- 76 Trombones by Meredith Wilson, from The Music Man
- Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, B.J. Thomas
- Bicycle Built for Two, Nat King Cole
I couldn’t resist sharing some bicycle quotes for motivation. (No I didn't google motivational quotes for yoga; yoga is all you need!)
These quotes and more can be found here:
Thank you for reading!
Click on SUBSCRIBE if you'd like to receive email notification when entries are posted on Kelly's Fishbowl.