The Art of Not Being Lame.

Via Bernadette Birney
on May 2, 2011
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So there I was, doing push-ups, in the narrow hallway of the office building that is home to Virayoga.

Two minutes prior, I’d been sitting on the floor with my friend Linda.  We were too early for our class–Life Coaching for Yoga Teachers–and so were waiting outside in the  hall, when I fessed up that I’d been doing it again.  You know–ruminating.  On the same old thing.  Again.

Linda shook her head, and looked professionally disappointed in me.

“Aren’t you sick of this yet?” she asked.

“Yes,” I huffed defensively.

She stretched her legs, leaned back against the wall, smiled, evilly, and shook her head in disagreement.

“What?  I am!”

“No.  You’re not.  When you’re really sick of it, you’ll stop.”

“I am so.  I am.  I’m sick of it!” I grumbled, as I hauled myself up to do push-ups.

Push-ups are the consequence I’ve given myself, a la Handel Group style, for obsessive rumination on a particular thing that I ruminate about–a lot. Now, when I catch myself–if I don’t cut it the hell out–I’m learning to give myself a consequence.  The point isn’t to punish myself; it’s to shine a light on the way my mind spends time.  Unhealthy brooding does not enhance my life, or my overall state of well being.  I have promised to quit obsessively ruminating about this particular thing. The push-ups are a consequence, a ridiculous consequence, and even the ridiculousness is helpful.  Laughing at myself helps the needle of my consciousness jump the groove it has gotten stuck in.  I’ve learned the technique from my coaches, and this is one of the places life coaching touches yoga.

When it comes to the whirling dervish of thoughts and feelings, many yogis cite Patanjali’s second sutra:  “Yogash citta vritti nirodhah.” It roughly translates,

“b!tch—you are captive of your own tempest of twisting thoughts, and emotions, and you don’t even know it!  Learn how to calm your sh!t down.”

The coaching is very in keeping with the spirit of the yoga; if I catch myself ruminating, I have 30 seconds to stop.  Otherwise–I do the push-ups, no matter where; no matter when; no matter what.  Trust me–enough push-ups will nirodhah the crap out of those citta vrittis, all right.  Yes ma’am.

The point of both my yoga, and the coaching, is to get conscious enough to live an extraordinary life.  Living an Extraordinary Life (now known as Designing Your Life) was actually the name of a class on these techniques taught at MIT, so I feel like I’m in pretty good company.

My bad habit of ruminating puts the kibosh on my extraordinary life, and that sucker’s days are numbered.

So, down I went for 10.

Would you believe that the durned push-ups actually made me feel better?  How broody can one really be while doing something so completely absurd?  Taking some action, any action, also reminded me that I am in charge of where my mind roams, where it rages, where it spins, and where it squats down to dither, and brood.  Those push-ups are a call to wake up, and to spend my precious breaths in conscious ways.  Life is much, much too precious to fritter away on crap that makes me unhappy.

What do you ruminate about?  What bad habit is not enhancing your life?  Do you:

  1. Lose your temper and regret it?
  2. Leave things until the last minute?
  3. Obsess about your ex?
  4. Snap at your mother and then feel guilty?

When are you going to do something about it?  What are you waiting for?

Later, in class, Lauren Zander, the teacher, and co-founder of The Handel Group™, asked, “when are you going to start treating the promises that you make to yourself, and the consequences for not keeping them, as spiritual? Self-respect is spiritual.”

I wrote that down in my notebook.

I plan to engrave it on my soul.

She also said, “Don’t let yourself be lame.”

I wrote that down too.

Not being lame is an art. The good news is that it’s an art that can be taught, and learned.

Read more of Bernadette Birney’s posts here, and read more about The Handel Group, Lauren Zander, and her work with yoga teachers here.


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


14 Responses to “The Art of Not Being Lame.”

  1. Lacey says:

    I read this and was so inspired I wrote out my own consequences for those actions. Self-respect isspiritual … So well said! Thank you for putting this out there!

  2. Well, I always know when I start reading a Bernadette Birney article I'm going to get something unusual and surprising.

    This is no exception! Very enjoyable.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  3. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  4. bernieb says:

    Oops–I actually meant to post this reply under your above comment but it means the world to me that you're twittering and featuring me too.(;

  5. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  6. Rosalind says:

    I loved this, thank you sooooo much. It reminded me not to be lame!!! And I love the concept of consequences for not honouring the promises you keep to yourself. The whole article was super inspiring and eloquent.

  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    Yep, agree with above folks. This article is not lame :))

  8. Ditto on that! So UN lame. Loved it Bernadette. Great idea! I hate push-ups + have a love/hate relationship with ruminating.

    I do something similar if I forget my grocery bags at home. Have them load it back in the cart + I toss everything into the car loose. Bag it at home. 😀

    Look forward to more!!

  9. bernadette says:

    Thanks, Rosalind! That thrills me.

  10. bernadette says:

    Awww, thanks Ben (:

  11. bernadette says:

    You're a kindred spirit, Lynn. I love it.

  12. Jessie Paul says:

    So nice to see you on Elephant, Bernadette! I was the pregnant girl in the teacher training with you and live in Utah where I have been teaching yoga for 2 years now! Yes, I have a few of those promises to myself I need to commit myself to, not sure about the push-ups, though. Maybe I will stand in tree pose for 1 min instead!

  13. I love this! Self awareness is so important and what better way to give yourself a kick up the bum and take notice than to drop and give 20 (or 10) push-ups.

    It’s so frustrating when people come to you with the same compliants or issues time and again rather than looking for solutions. And yet when you think about it we are all guilty of this. I guess this method is a way of forcing yourself to quit the b!tching as you say and take action! Thanks for sharing.