I believe I am like most men in that my practice started with a girlfriend. One that took me to my first yoga class, where I muddled through my first poses, and yet I found a way into bakasana, crow pose. Let me tell you how.
We met at a mutual friend’s wedding. She had just returned from saving sea turtles in Central America. I was into competitive cycling at the time but she still owned more bicycles than me. It’s reasons like those that I found myself at a yoga studio in Denver, CO in 2005.
At the time I thought of yoga as some kind of stretching. So going to a class sounded like a great idea after hiking & skiing. All I thought to ask her was what to wear. Luckily I brought some long loose shorts for hiking and a wicking t-shirt. I had no idea of the types of studios or styles of yoga practice.
We arrived late, but before class started; I grabbed a rental mat and headed into the studio. There were no open spaces together. I took the slot near the front so she could have the one in the back. I don’t remember the instructor, I don’t remember if there was heart speech or we meditated at the beginning. I don’t remember the music. I remember the heat. Now that I know more about yoga, I know I wasn’t in a certified bikram studio. Whatever you have planned in your day do your body a favor, go drink a glass of water right now. I’ll wait.
That was tasty huh? Back to the moments in class. I was sweating. We were only sitting. When class started I did the best that I could. I already had trouble remembering left from right, adding upside down didn’t help. I looked at the teacher and the other students a lot. I had no idea what some of the words I heard were but I could mime along with whatever everyone else was doing. I held my breath as I moved, I got tired.
Then we found ourselves squatting on our mats. The teacher said something like roll our weight onto our palms, let our shins find our arms and lift our toes. So I did. It wasn’t beautiful, not at all. My elbows were dug into the pocket of my knees. I did not stay in the pose a long time. Yet, my girlfriend later remarked she was impressed to see me do that.
I didn’t understand because I had been able to do that all along. How bones stack and my balancing point was something I had found through play. I had not had any exposure to yoga before. What I did have was a lot of time in deep left field as a horrible t-ball player. As a child I was not skilled nor were the teams we played against. There was not a lot to do in the outfield. I kicked all the anthills. Sometimes I sat. Sometimes I tried to balance on my arms.
Almost 20 years after playing I found a use for that skill. It just happened to be in a yoga class. My point is not to forget to play. It’s important not because of what play teaches you now but because of what you learn from play in the future. This is what’s beautiful about devops and yoga, the encouragement to try new things whether it is a pose or a deployment process. Failure occurs when we continue with what we know does not work. Do something disparate from your routine. Just play.