Breathing into Discomfort

I'm attending KubeCon + CloudNativeCon this week—a technology conference focused on the free software that powers the world—and while there has been more to experience than any one person could possibly take in, there is one category of events that I've found to be both necessary and rewarding: Wellness.

Yoga for Nerds

I have to confess... I have never taken a yoga class before.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against yoga, but the idea of taking any kind of class with other (presumably) more experienced people has always been a pretty big source of anxiety for me. Call it introversion. Call it self-consciousness. Whatever it is, I have always had a hard time learning things in a public setting due to a totally unrealistic fear of failure and embarrassment.

But, personal growth is always challenging, and while waltzing into the yoga studio down the street from my house might be a little too overwhelming for me (what do I wear? what do I say? what do I do?), the thought of doing some stretching and breathing in a room full of equally out-of-shape, inexperienced people—especially people that are dressed for work instead of the gym—turned out to be a far more palatable first step.

Once I got myself settled on the mat, conference attire and all, our instructor said something that really stuck with me. She said yoga "is about putting your body in uncomfortable positions, and learning to breath into that discomfort." Not to be too on the nose about it, but as someone who has struggled with social anxiety their entire life, this struck me as particularly timely and profound.

A New Type of Growth

I think it's safe to say that just about all growth we experience in life can be boiled down to our ability to breath into discomfort. Trying new things is hard, and getting better at those things is doubly so. As a lifelong introvert, I've been far more comfortable with the discomfort of "private" growth. Learning a new skill on my own comes easier to me, because I can do it in a way that avoids the pesky problem of "other people."

But, if I'm entirely being honest, that habit has made me small.

My fear of judgement or embarrassment has taught me to avoid situations where I might have experienced a wholly different type of growth. Where I thought a 30-minute yoga class would be a good opportunity to take a break from the chaos of the conference in a safe space, it turned into a life lesson. Underneath all the box breathing and unfamiliar poses, we were taught to be deliberate in our actions and to "feel everything." To be extremely aware of the sensation of each vertebrae as we rolled our backs down onto the mat, or the way each position changed the size and shape of our lungs.

Every moment was an opportunity for mindfulness and simple being. So, thanks to a yoga class at a tech conference (of all places), I'm going to try learning to breath into my own discomfort and give myself permission to try, to fail, to grow, and to feel everything.


This is post 017 of #100DaysToOffload


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