A bunch of us gathered under the gazebo at Sunset Beach this morning to hear about the past, present, and future vision of the CrossSUP organization. Listening to coach Christian Cook speak, I was struck by the differences between training as a team and practicing yoga, but also by the similarities.
I’m not an official member of the CrossSUP team, but I’m welcome at the gatherings as a peripheral part of the family. I’ve not tried to be invited to join the 6-man crews that paddle the big canoes, like Katelyn and our teachers Alix Emery, Jade Skinner, and Lindsay Cross do. I rarely join the group for team workouts. And there are good reasons for that, namely, I have a lot of respect for the commitment those guys show and the work they put in, and I recognize that I would not be an asset. Although I always loved team sports as a kid, I was never particularly coachable. I still don’t like being told what to do. I’m uncomfortable in the water, a poor swimmer, and I really hate being cold. I also don’t enjoy being accountable to other people in that way. I know this is personally limiting (I will never be a great paddler!), but I’m okay with it. I have fun paddling on my own and being a small part of the group. I’ve learned a lot just by proximity.
In his address, Christian talked about being respectful to the team, the process, and to the oceans. Be on time, hustle, bring a serious attitude, and pick up trash, not just at the beach, but everywhere. The intentionality each person brings to the organization is what shapes it, and provides its foundation for years to come. When you are a teammate, with a coach, you must hold yourself accountable to your teammates, your coach, the program, and the organization’s core values. If you’re going to bother showing up, you need to show up all the way.
In your yoga practice, you’re only accountable to yourself. At The BE, our motto is Flow Your Own Way. That’s because you’re all adults, and we respect your autonomy, and our mission is to help you learn to be accountable to yourself. But that doesn’t mean that anything you do on your mat is great yoga practice. Because you are only accountable to yourself, it doesn’t really matter to anyone else in the room if you show up late, walk into the room with a bunch of unnecessary stuff, snap out your mat, practice distractedly, and leave early. It doesn’t really matter to me. But, you are cheating yourself, and wasting your own time. Or at least, you’re not getting out of your practice nearly what you could be.
Like anything, what you put into your practice is what you’ll get out. Start by showing respect to yourself. Come to yoga with a purpose. Bring intentionality to your mat. In yoga, it’s not easy to measure progress. There is no scoreboard, timer, or judge. An advanced practice is one in which you are focused, deliberate, and curious. As a teacher, I can see clues to your inner state, but I can’t know what’s happening in your mind and body. And I don’t care at all what your Warrior 2 looks like. Honestly, I probably have no idea what your Warrior 2 looks like, no matter how long you’ve been coming to my class. But do I notice if you are distracted, talking to your neighbor, watching the clock, squirming through Savasana? Yes! And it’s not because I’m annoyed or judging you. I’m simply attuned to the outward signs of a student just going through the motions.
So I’m encouraging you to bring purpose to your mat. Ask yourself when you walk into class, “What am I doing here?” And make the answer the focal point of that day’s session. You can do so much on your mat, because it’s YOUR time to work on YOUR shit. Do you want to be kinder? Spend your practice watching your thoughts and your internal dialogue. Train yourself out of constant criticism, whether it’s external or internal. Do you want to be more focused? Then pay attention to what you’re doing, in every moment. Gratitude, resilience, stillness, presence — these are all practices, and you can hone them all on your mat. IF you practice with intentionality.
Sensei Donato Helbling was the first person who told me, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” I think about that when I’m not bringing the person I want to be to every activity and interaction in my life. We grow when we bring awareness, intention, and effort to our actions. Failing is a part of that process, too, and we all know that you can’t fail if you don’t try. When you fall short, notice it, keep practicing, and show up better next time. In summary, don’t sell yourself short by bringing a half-assed effort. As the Drive-by Truckers said: “Don’t be so easy on yourself.”