At yoga, I’m noticing I’ve lost some balance when standing on my left leg. This reminds me that although clinically all the bones in the foot are now healed, the ligaments and muscles are weak and have ‘forgotten’ how to support me. On top of that, I don’t have confidence in the strength of my foot…yet.
Tuesday at yoga, our instructor, the magnificent Mona Power, guided us into one of the warrior poses. As we were doing it, she looked out over the class and noticed that some of us had shoulders that were creeping up toward our ears. She gently reminded us, ‘Relax your shoulders. Don’t place stress where it isn’t needed’.
A light bulb switched on in my head. Don’t place stress where it isn’t needed. I know I should have been completely focused on the breath, the very life-force of yoga, but my mind drifted to real life.
Where have I been placing stress that I don’t need it?
In the warrior poses, strength is needed in the legs. Our feet need to be firmly planted on the ground so there is stress involved in that part of our body. We also need to ‘put some muscle in our arms’ as we try to hold them as parallel to the floor as possible. We do not need to place stress in our faces or our necks, and we certainly don’t need to put stress in our shoulders by lifting them toward our ears. Not only does it look kind of silly, it actually focuses our energy on a part of the body not meant to be activated in this pose.
I know there are almost always lessons about life to be learned from yoga. This one was so obvious it should have been labelled, ‘Exhibit A’. How often we place stress in our lives where it is not needed.
This past weekend we were lucky to have our son, Greg, home for a few days while he was interviewing in Calgary. We love getting together as a family. Knowing we only had a few days to enjoy his company I wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to see him for a visit. And I wanted my own chance to visit with him. And he had interview prep to complete. It was a lot to squish in. As I anticipated the dinner I was making for a group of us on Friday, and thinking about how to manage to try to get a bit of prep done ahead for the upcoming dinners on Sunday and Monday, Mona’s words arrived in my head.
Don’t place stress where it isn’t needed.
I could envision two distinctly different scenes. In Scene One, I was bustling around the kitchen in a hurry, trying to make sure everything was ready before people arrived. In this scene anyone watching could figure out I was concentrating on the task at hand, not really taking time to visit or think about much else. I didn’t engage in much conversation other than to assign tasks and I sent the clear signal that important conversations could be saved for later.
Scene Two, however, looked and felt different. Though I was still moving quickly in the kitchen, making sure everything was ready, my energy did not have the feel of urgency to it. I had time to prep and visit. I could place cut up vegetables in the salad rather than toss them in. I could learn a bit about Greg’s thoughts on his potential jobs while we worked together.
Both scenes would have similar outcomes. Either way, the meal prep would be complete. Either way the people would arrive and we would have enough food. Either way I would have spent a few hours with my son. The difference would lie in whether I chose to have a visit with only my son, or if I wanted to invite Stress to join us.
Mona’s words turned in my head, ‘Don’t place stress where it isn’t needed’. I had to laugh; food does not taste better if it has been prepared with an extra dash of stress. I think, thanks to Mona, I chose well this past weekend. I have not always done so.
I can recall an evening when Jim and I left home slightly late for an event. We were not really speaking in the car. We were not mad, but we were not speaking, thinking that every ounce of energy was needed to propel the car to our destination with as much efficiency as possible. How much nicer it could have been if only we had placed the appropriate amount of stress on the car to get us where we were going, and saved the rest to be used if and when it was needed. We did not arrive at our destination any earlier because we were quiet. We certainly did not arrive in a more relaxed state.
Sometimes the needless stress we place on ourselves comes in the form of us trying to do more than time allows. Most often this happens when we trick ourselves into thinking that time will stretch for us. Most often, the unnecessary stress comes from the response our body has toward what we are trying to do. The stress shows up in who we are being, rather than in what we are doing.
It’s interesting that when I think of Jim and I driving on that evening, for the life of me I cannot remember where we were going, I cannot remember what we did once we arrived and I cannot remember our drive home. I can clearly remember the needless passenger, Stress, we chose to place right in the front with us; exactly where she was not needed.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Where am I placing stress?’
Elizabeth provides leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you learn how to chose where to place stress.