Lessons From My Yoga Mat


YogaWhen creating or doing something new, we open ourselves up. We open ourselves up for comment, accolades, good strokes and well wishes. We open ourselves up to new connections and a richer community.

Earlier this year I challenged  myself to complete 28 yoga classes in 28 days  …  all types of yoga, including Bikram, the 90-minute hot-you-will-never-make-it-out-alive-bootcamp-yoga. I am overweight, 47 years old and out of shape. This was hard work.

I am blessed for I had lots of folks in my corner cheering me on. They told me how proud of me they were and how much they respected what I was doing. I try to always have lots of good folks on my side who love me no matter what, even when I smell like a middle school locker room after a class.

Six months later I still feel really vulnerable every time I walk into a yoga class. Many times, while not the oldest, I am one of the largest and often I am the only brown face in the room. The minute I walk in the door, my brain begins to whisper horrible things:

What are you doing?

You are too old for this.

You look stupid trying to do some of these poses.

You should sit down.

EVERYONE is looking at you.

I go to yoga anyway.

Why do I intentionally bring this anxiety into my life? Because I get to lean into discomfort and I get to feel resilient. There are great lessons for me in both those activities.

This is good medicine. The healing kind that makes me feel strong spiritually.

As a society we like to run away from discomfort. We don’t like being the only anything. It’s natural for us to enter a room, whether its a yoga class or a networking event, and search out someone that looks like us, or sounds like us so we can relate to them. We  do this to help ease our anxiety. It’s like a social security blanket.

Yet, I will argue this: it’s good for us to push a bit and lean into discomfort. I am not talking about living in a place of high anxiety every day but, rather, to step into a space that is new and unfamiliar. This discomfort is a gift and one that very few people or organizations actively seek. This discomfort should push your boundaries so that you feel tired, but it should never hurt. Like when you speak your truth and  your voice is loud and clear and just a bit shaky.

Discomfort is medicine.

Life is not easy, nor is it fair. To thrive we have to be resilient. Throw me an obstacle and I will grow stronger. When I fall down I never stay there. As a woman leader this one skill has served me well. No one ever said life would be easy and obstacle free.

Human beings have enormous amounts of resilience. We just don’t think we do. Somewhere along the way we began to believe the story that other people got all the good stuff. Other people got the fierceness, the self-confidence, the courage, the moxie. We just got what was left. It is other people who create, other people who shine.

But we all have strength and passion in the face of adversity. Every one of us. We all have strong minds and spirits that can bounce back. We can have faith in powers that are beyond our understanding and mightier than a mustard seed.

Resilience is medicine.

My yoga mat has taught me great lessons about my ability to master myself. There is nothing from which I can’t recover or through which I cannot work.



Image credit: SyncHealth

Desiree Adaway
Desiree is a consultant, strategist, coach, speaker, storyteller and explorer. She uses her superpowers–her voice, sense of adventure and belief in the transformative power of community–to help organizations design programs that create unrestricted revenue, volunteers and advocates. You can find out more about her at www.desireeadaway.com, or follow her on Twitter at @desireeadaway
Desiree Adaway
Desiree Adaway

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  1. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Have faith in God and your own innate ability. Push past barriers and try new things, even if you feel uncomfortable-that’s when growth as a person comes:)


  2. I’ve been learning lately to pay attention to what makes me uncomfortable. Thank you for adding to those thoughts in my head 🙂

  3. pastordt says:

    I love this, too! Thank you for articulating this so very well. ‘Leaning into discomfort. . .’ – not something we tend to think of doing. But so profoundly helpful at times. Thanks for the push – it was a kind and gentle one, one I needed tonight.

  4. Julie Cochrane says:

    This is such a great message Desiree. I turned 60 last birthday, and decided I have spent too many of those years missing out on things because I have always been too ‘cautious’. SO … I decided to do something I had wanted to do for a while – get a tattoo! After their initial shock, my kids were delighted, and my daughter and her tattooed husband proudly walked into ‘Bondi Ink’ with me and watched as the artist inscribed “family” along my forearm. I felt strangely proud of myself, and had a lot of fun later observing the mixed reactions of amazed guests at my 60th party! Now my 61st is coming up and I’m wondering what I can do this year. . .

  5. Heather Caliri says:

    I love this, Desiree–I’ve been trying to do these just-a-bit-too-uncomfortable things regularly, and like Bev says, it makes me feel so ALIVE. I thought courageousness was a talent, but like so many other things, I’m finding it’s a muscle that grows when I work it out. Thank you so much for your honesty here.

  6. “Discomfort is medicine.”

    “Resilience is medicine.”

    I going to be chanting this to myself all day! Thanks so much Desiree. You are brave. I have yet to attempt yoga. Soon and very soon I hope.

    • Desiree Adaway says:

      You can do this! I so believe in you and your ability to work your way through any challenge!

  7. Bev Murrill says:

    Oooohhhhhhh… I LOVE it! You are INTREPID, Desiree!

    Pushthroughitiveness and Bouncebackability are two of the keenest and most desirable traits for anyone who wants to do anything worth doing! For my 60th Birthday I took iceskating lessons, to the dire warnings of some of my safer friends – and they were right – multiple fallings over do not help your knees, coccyx, hips, wrists… name it, falling on ice doesn’t help it… but I FELT ALIVE, despite the sideways sympathetic looks from all the younger/more elegant ice skaters. In the end, I did give up… and visited the chiropractor for a while to get over it all… BUT HEY, IT WAS AWESOME WHILE IT LASTED!

    Now I do weights and the bikes and walking machines at the gym.

    I think you’re awesome… we all think other people are looking askance at us… the trick is determining not to care, isn’t it. x

  8. Helen Burns Helen Burns says:

    So, so great and so, so inspiring! Thanks for sharing your beautiful, courageous story with me today. LOVE IT!!!

  9. Deb Owen says:

    I love lessons from the yoga mat. Yin yoga nailed me on the discomfort thing. To hold poses for that long, to just breath and wait and let the discomfort pass.

    Every single time that I walk in and see someone there for the first time, or someone who is overweight, or someone advanced in years (there’s an 80 year old woman who comes to the studio I go to)….personally, I am always encouraged by their courage. I give them a silent shout out (“You go!”) and get to the mat, where the focus gets back to my own journey and practice. I often suspect that people aren’t noticing me and my age or height or ability as much as I think they are. And those who are may very well be sending a silent shout-out too.

  10. fiona lynne says:

    Oh I love this. I’ve been feeling that discomfort recently and wanting to speed as fast as possible away from it, but you’re right, there’s healing here if I’ll lean in.

    • Desiree Adaway says:

      It is the very best thing we can do for ourselves! Sit in the discomfort and learn from it!

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