What I have learned (and re-learned) from PiYo

I recently attended my second class in PiYo — a strange but wonderful mixture of Pilates and Yoga.

Here is what I have learned and what I have been reminded of via my new PiYo journeys:

Stretching is not easy.
This is true in the literal and figurative sense.

From a physical standpoint, stretching is exhausting albeit rewarding work. When I attended my first PiYo class, I casually dropped into the session in my walking shorts and baggy t-shirt, and without a change of clothes. This wasn’t like kickboxing, I smugly thought to myself!

Barely 20 minutes into the class, I became nearly suffocated on my sweaty and billowing shirt as I attempted to adopt artful but muscle-challenging poses. Building core strength is as intense as it is important!

Stretching isn’t easy from a figurative point of view, either. When I was younger, I became accustomed to being the best at various things… piano, standardized tests, etc., and quickly abandoned anything that I could not easily excel at.

When I first attended Northwestern University, I was hit by the two-by-four of collective talent surrounding me, taunting me, painfully humbling me. And since then I’ve learned that I must be content to become Better without being Best… or suffer a very unfulfilling and painfully boring life.

Soon after I was laid off and right before my 30th birthday, I took up swing dancing. I sucked… badly. I had never delved into dancing before, or really any hobby that required such physical control, skillful balance, and social assertiveness. I almost quit several times, but for some reason, I did not.

I now have more friends, better posture, and, yes, a happier life because I stuck with swing dancing. In particular, I’m proud that I pushed through the challenges even though I knew (and still know) that I will never be a GREAT swing dancer. I will likely never win awards, never be “that dreamy lead” that women swoon over, and so on.

But I’ve gotten better and I continue to improve, and along with this, my self-confidence has soared. By stretching myself… my skills, my courage, and — literally — my body, I have actually become a better person.

A blank mind is a terribly hard thing to achieve
At the end of each PiYo session, our outstanding instructor has urged us to let our minds and bodies relax and float… free from cluttering thoughts and distractions.

This is much easier said than done. In a seemingly uncontrollable swirl, my mind chatters incessantly:
– Ooooo owwww rrrrrgh… that was hard! Whew!
– Hey, that hottie next to me is sure talented!
– I’m hungry, I wonder what I should make for lunch?
– OUT, damn thoughts! You’re not supposed to be here. Shush!!!
– I wish they’re turn down the music in the outer studio.
– Hey, our music sounds like Yanni. Yuck!
– Hmm. It’s really hard to be thought-free, isn’t it?
– Yes, it is. Dang!

This got me to (ouch!) thinking some more afterwards. How do people successfully meditate? How can one affirmatively choose not to think… to be free, just for even one minute, from worries, ideas, curiosity, longing, and randomness?

I know it’s possible. At least I hear it’s possible.

I want to learn how not to think.

Face time is the great social lubricator
After my last PiYo class, I struck up a brief conversation with the talented and gorgeous woman next to me. Her last words were, “Keep coming. I’ll see you next week!” and she smiled.

I think her encouragement was sincere, and I’ve learned firsthand that showing up really IS half the battle, not just for acquiring new skills, but for winning the trust and friendship of those around you.

In swing dancing, for instance, I’ve been increasingly asked to dance by some of the top dancers in the world. It’s definitely not because of my looks (or lack thereof), nor due to any dramatic improvement in my dancing.

It’s because I’m a regular, and these amazing dancers see my smiling face week after week. Familiarity apparently really does breed comfort.

Same thing for gym classes. Whereas some guys will blatantly bomb out hitting on women at the gym, I’ve surprisingly found that interesting and attractive women will come up to ME and even ask me for my e-mail address after they’ve seen me in class over the course of a few months.

Maybe this is not a great revelation. Perhaps I’m sounding especially superficial, especially in the context of an entry about the profound practice of yoga and Pilates.

But at least to me, such insights were not initially obvious. And I must admit to both surprise and gratefulness at the fact that I can stretch my body, my mind, my soul, and my social network all at the same time.

Life may not be easy, but it sure can be wonderful 🙂







What do you think?

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