Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. (Raymond Lindquist)

Confession, I am not the most confident person in the world. There, I said it. I often find myself battling a sense of inhibition & self-doubt when I embark on something new. Like many, stepping outside of my comfort zone is never easy. But, at 46 years old, I am learning to be more cognizant of those feelings. I am learning that when those voices, the ones that stick little pin pricks into my confidence level, begin to speak, I need not let them have the final word. I listen to them, and then I force myself to begin to answer them. What am I afraid of? What is the worst that could happen? Is it possible I will miss out on something fun, exciting, rewarding or meaningful because I didn’t want to look silly, or perhaps fail? Do I feel like all eyes will be on me if I mess up, falter or struggle? The answers and the questions vary at times. But the important part, is challenging myself not to succumb to the doubts or inhibitions. I promised myself in this new year, I would do more of that.

And so today brought me to yoga class. I’ve taken yoga before. It was at a local studio and while I absolutely enjoyed doing it, I will confess to always feeling a little bit uneasy. I didn’t like being the new student in the class. I felt silly & even a little embarrassed when I struggled with a position that seemed to come so easily to those who had been practicing for years. I felt unsure about my movements & rather than feeling relaxed, I found myself caught up in trying to get the moves “right.” Am I positioned properly? Is the right leg up in the air? Why can’t I seem to contort my body in the ways that others can? And so, after a few months, I just fell away from the practice.

When meditation became a part of my personal journey, I began to think about returning to the practice of yoga, but off went those little voices in my head, coming up with a myriad of excuses and reasons not to try. So I ran on the treadmill, I took the doggies for walks, I lifted weights and I periodically thought to myself, boy I’d really like to try yoga again. Then…. I didn’t.

But today, I gave those voices in my head a gentle time out. I attended a yoga class, at our local Whole Foods, instructed by my friend & yoga instructor Pam. I told her that I was planning on coming, wrote it on my calendar so my family would hold me to it, and even asked my friend to give me a gentle reminder the day before. This way, I left myself little room for backing out.

So I showed up today and immediately felt welcome and safe within the walls of the community room, transformed into a yoga studio. My fears about looking foolish, or doing it wrong, quietly subsided and I threw myself into the practice.

Here is what I learned today. I learned, as I looked around the room, that other people shook or stumbled as they stretched to achieve a pose. I learned that even if you loose your footing, or feel off balance, you can re-position yourself and once again find your center, even if it takes you several tries. I learned that stepping outside of my comfort zone, both literally & figuratively, can be hard, it may even hurt as I awaken new muscles, or use them in a new way. But with continued stretching & practice, the body will adapt, it will strengthen and it will move you to places you once thought impossible.

It’s a metaphor for life really. Isn’t it? It is only in the stretching, the reaching, the stepping far outside of what we know & feel comfortable with, that we grow. Sometimes our legs may shake, perhaps our arms feel unable to reach any higher, or any further. But if we keep up with the practice we will soon feel more certain of our footing, we will find our balance, we will learn that we are capable of reaching great heights and we will find our center.

As children, we are free of so many inhibitions. It’s a beautiful thing to watch & behold. Some of us are blessed never to lose that. And some, like me, are trying to find their way back to that place. Today, I felt a little bit closer.

Yoga is called a “practice.” It is a process of learning, growing, strengthening and flexibility. It involves setting an intention, whether it be for the studio time, the day ahead or perhaps even for the longer term. And so, next week, I’ll be back at Whole Foods, learning, stretching & even fumbling my way through once again. And as I move into child’s pose, I’ll be reminded that answering the voices of self-doubt and being open to new experiences, is a gift we must continue to give ourselves, well into adulthood. Namaste.