I admit, I used to make fun of people who do yoga. Not for lack of trying it a few times, however. I think I was just frustrated that what came easily to some people was not coming to me in the form of balance and inner peace. To be fair, I never gave yoga enough of a chance by keeping at it and letting myself become more practiced. So when I came home a few weeks ago for the holidays and I found out that my older sister, Katie, had morphed into this passionate, Zen-filled yogi, I was skeptical as I always am.
I even poked fun at her, chalking her practice up to something I would never give credence to. I know this is making me seem like some kind of yoga curmudgeon, but perhaps I was manifesting my insecurity about my own failed attempts. Katie, who is so into yoga she is making steps to become a certified instructor, urged me to give yoga another try. She’s taken my brother and me to her favorite classes, introduced us to her friends, and has generously shared this part of her life with us.
The first class was as I expected: difficult and frustrating. It took a lot of convincing to make it to my second class that week. I made Katie promise to buy me a meatball sandwich at the Italian place next door to the studio, an incentive for me to attend and make it through the class. However, about five minutes through the class, I didn’t even need to focus on a sandwich to make it through. I was actually enjoying it. I did eat my meatball sub, but I also went to class the next day excited to get on my mat, breathe deeply, and strengthen my muscles.
I’ve been going with Katie to each class she attends, and my previous apprehension about yoga is gone.
Maybe it’s the yoga and the new awareness it’s given me, or maybe it’s me finally gaining an adult perspective, but lately I’ve been incorporating the balance and peace I’ve found in yoga class into the situations my family and I encounter.
For example, this past Monday I came home to find my father sitting at the kitchen table on the phone with Verizon. There was a technical network glitch with his newly bought Apple iPad and he needed the help of a representative. The glitch as it turned out, was actually a major problem that required the help of at least several more representatives on the phone. After three hours on hold with multiple employees with their own unique promises of help that became less believable with each subsequent transfer, the ordeal was resolved.
That day was my dad’s first day back at work in New York City after vacation and then he had to come home and spend hours on the phone fixing someone’s previous mistake. My dad is a calm guy, but my mother was livid and made plans of retribution for all the hours my dad lost on the phone. I begged her not to, for she wouldn’t gain anything from yelling at somebody else and drawing out an issue that would have since been rectified. To my surprise, she agreed, and she didn’t raise hell with any subsequent Verizon employees.
Most people who search the web are familiar with a trend and meme known as “first world problems” — problems from living in a wealthy, industrialized nation that third worlders would probably roll their eyes at. In the form of humorous ironic pictures, Internet posters poke fun at mundane problems that, when compared with serious issues other people must face, are really not that grave.
While first-world problems are trending as laughing stock online, I think that the idea of perspective is important. As annoying as the Verizon endeavor turned out to be, I realized that at least we had a phone to deal with the issue, and when you get down to it, it was an iPad my dad was trying to fix.
This past Monday also happened to be the coldest night of the year so far. In a few hours, the temperature had dropped at an alarming rate. Around 11 p.m., my dad asked me to hold the flashlight for him outside so he could make sure the water pipes wouldn’t freeze. Somehow, we were briefly locked out. The cold and wind chill were unbearable even in our winter coats, and I was forced to think about the people who don’t have a home to rush back to. After my sister found the two of us shivering at the front door, I reminded my mom of this. When there are people left without homes on nights like this, it was hard for her to justify the time she would waste prolonging a problem and its negative energy.
I don’t mean to belittle the day-to-day dilemmas people face in their lives. Instead I would merely suggest that keeping perspective in mind never hurts. For every inconvenience we experience, someone else might endure hunger, poverty, or disease. This is not the yoga talking, though the yoga helps. Instead it is a new mindfulness that I hope to keep with me. My next goal is to bring my mom to yoga with my sister and me. I think it would do a great service to Verizon employees everywhere. I saved some this time, they can thank me the next.