I love that yoga is called a practice. The word practice implies ongoing work. It implies working toward something and every time I get on my mat I know that I have work to do. I am not being judged or timed. I am not even trying for perfection. I am listening to my body as it is on that day on my mat and deciding what my practice is going to look like. It looks different every time. What I get out of yoga is internal and external strength, mind and body connection, awareness and skills to bring off my mat.
Team sports are so very different. There is practice toward achieving some kind of perfect—a dismount, swing, lay up, or play on the field or court. There is judgment, quality control and comparisons. But this weekend I saw some life lessons learned from a swimmer that aligned a lot with yoga.
My son’s district swim meet was Sunday. Having only raced this year, he was nervous about a big event with many teams competing and many parents watching. Since the season’s September start, coach Christine said she would transform him from a recreational swimmer into a racer and the change is notable. Each swimmer was assigned three races with the choice to make changes. Two of the three events were races that my son felt comfortable with but the third event left him in a panic. With the choice of a challenging longer distance or another race in his comfort zone, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised that he chose the harder and more demanding event.
For the entire week preceding race day, I saw an inner fire begin to build, a desire to improve and practice harder than ever and pure fear troubling his mind. With some great motivational speeches given by his dad (and a pre-race viewing of Rocky), my son started to tackle his fear replacing thoughts of doubt with affirmations of success, creating visual reminders to psych himself up for the task at hand and music to clear his mind of negative thoughts. Come race day, he was still scared but ready to take on this meet.
It is easy as a parent to see your child suffering and want to remove that pain. According to Buddha, life is suffering. To remove the pain or suffering is ultimately a disservice to our children. Teaching our children how to manage suffering and how to overcome suffering equips them with the power to find ultimate happiness.
At the end of the day, my son was walking taller. He even had a bit of a swagger. He took on his fear and squashed it. He found calm and strength through the fright and doubt. He found inner strength through the physical act of swimming, he found the mind/body connection, he found skills that he will use through out his life and he found a way to happiness.