Yoga is Fucking Judgmental

The next person that tells me that they are impressed that I made it through yoga will get punched in the face.

About a month ago, my friend Aaron Batalion decided to take a much deserved vacation from his startup and get himself into shape.

“Hot yoga, Micah. It’s fun, you should come.”

I had done Bikram yoga in the past, and enjoyed it, so I came along to a class. It was hard. It was fun. And I became obsessed. Now, a month later, I have taken classes in five cities, four states and from countless teachers, and in 30 days, I have missed only 3 days (2 because of travel).

A couple of quick points about Bikram Yoga. It’s in a room heated to 105 degrees. There are 26 poses, which were designed by this guy Bikram after a back injury, so they are focused on strengthening the core, and stretching the back. Which means, no Downward Dogs or other yoga moves than include jumping around. Oh, and there is farting. Which is always funny.

After each class, I would complain about the teacher to Aaron.

“Dude, why are the teachers so judgmental? Why are they so mean? I thought yoga was all about meditation and getting zen and shit.”

As I finished my tenth class, I finally realized why I had such a bad reaction to the teachers.

I hate being taught, but I love to learn.

To truly understand something, I just have to do it. Just jump of the proverbial cliff and figure it out on the way down. Being taught doesn’t allow for interpretation or freedom of expression. It requires that something is known and that knowledge is being shared. That exploration is dead.

But that isn’t all that yoga has taught me.

Yoga is judgmental

The next time someone says to me “Don’t worry it gets easier,” or am asked to not be in the front row, I am going to punch them in the face. They call yoga a practice, which by definition means that not only will I not be perfect, but that I will also improve over time.

As an entrepreneur, this is a powerful concept. It’s not about perfection, but about the pursuit of perfection. Startups are our practice. We never are able to create the perfect startup, but we can improve them over time.

The most perfect you are is right now

Being present is a concept that is often thrown around as a practice of focus on what you are doing, and worrying less about what came before or after. For me, the idea that I am doing the absolute best I can in that moment, that regardless of my previous success or perceived future success, I am accomplishing everything I can in that moment, blows me away. Imagine the stress relief I gain through that realization.

This ties into my lack of financial motivation. Every six months or so, my board offers to set up a bonus program for me. I always respond the same way, “I appreciate the offer, but it is impossible for me to work harder. I will achieve whatever is the maximum possibility, and a bonus can’t drive me any harder.”

Less is more

We hear this a lot, and always pass it off as contrite. But in yoga, it’s true. As a swimmer, football and lacrosse player, it was all about working as hard as possible with the physical manifestation of that effort being hard breathing, sore muscles, etc. If you worked so hard that you couldn’t move, then you clearly left something on the field. In yoga, its about pushing yourself just far enough. Imagine having the fortitude to stop. Can we be as successful in our startups if we stop working (or worked less) so that we could sustain our effectiveness over time rather than in bursts? I say we can.

Have a soft face

One of the teachers says this about ten million times a class. The day before last, I tweaked my back a bit, making me have a harder time holding poses. So last night, I decided to focus on having a soft face.

We often say “don’t let them see you sweat,” in an attempt to say that a leader that seems to be constantly under control, is a stronger leader. Last night, as I struggled to not grimace to furrow my brow, I noticed that when my face was relaxed, the rest of my body was relaxed. I didn’t hold my breath as much. I stopped scrunching my shoulders. I could feel each part of my body and make micro-adjustments to improve my pose. And at the end of the workout, I was exhausted. More exhausted than I had been in at least a week. Forcing myself to relax let me understand more of what was going on around me. Amazing.

Namaste, Motherfucker

At the end of each class, the teacher says “Namaste” and we all repeat it. Then, usually instead of laying there and resting for a couple of minutes, most folks grab their stuff and escape out of there rapidly. I assume it partly has to do with the heat of the room (105 - 120 degrees) that we have endured for 90 minutes. I always try and hang out for at least a minute or two. Mostly because I want to remind myself that being done, doesn’t mean that I am finished. Running a startup is a series of short bursts surrounded by minute rests that hopefully lead to a “namaste moment.” But, for most of us, the namaste moment isn’t an exit, but just an indication that the current effort is done, and a new day starts tomorrow. It’s important to reflect on what you accomplished every day in the context of that day.

We all make mistakes, do somethings awesome, and live our lives in the hope of building one amazing thing. For me, the 90 minutes I spend at yoga lets me focus on me and only me. All the concerns I have exit my brain. And all I think about is the cold water I am going to drink when yoga is done.

Yoga is fucking judgmental. I don’t care what all the hippies say. Yet, it has also provided an opportunity for me to learn new ways that help me live my Startup Life. And for that, a couple of farts, 90 minutes of painful heat, and an old dude in desperate need of a haircut calling me “Big Guy,” is worth it.

 
451
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451
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