Success through Failure – The Journey of a Reluctant Yogi (Revisited)

Success through Failure – The Journey of a Reluctant Yogi (Revisited)

Let’s face it, looking around the yoga class I just finished, it would be easy for me to say, “I suck.” My heels still don’t touch the floor in the Downward Dog pose. My thoughts are anything but meditative. If the instructor begins to chant, I’m mentally running for the door. There are definitely things stacked up against me becoming a pop-culture image of a yogi – male, 6’2”, 210 lbs., 45 years old. Twenty-five plus years of hiking, kayaking, bike riding, skiing, rafting, and climbing have created strong but tight muscles. But, to actually say that I suck couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are definitely things stacked up against me becoming a pop-culture image of a yogi

Without yoga, life has demonstrated that my body would be in pain. Nonetheless, I can’t own the perspective that “I get to go to yoga” – that it is fun. That is what Albert, my instructor for the last seven years, encourages me to believe. The best I can do is say, “I have to go to yoga so that I get to do the other things that I enjoy. I’ve made peace with bit of life maintenance. I have to go to yoga.”

A few years ago, I read the book Success through Failure – the Paradox of Design. Its theme was the simple concept that we must fail in order to succeed in the future. Failure is one of the greatest motivators of change, learning and evolution. Of course, the book uses some catastrophic engineering failures – collapsed bridges and NASA accidents – to make its point. Reading this book helped me intellectualize that failure was OK. Emotionally though I wasn’t OK with it. Failing is scary and puts knicks in my “Look-Good” – the image that I want to portray to the world. Stepping to the front of my yoga mat does not strengthen my Look-Good. I’ve had to make peace with that too.

Failing is scary and puts knicks in my “Look-Good”

Of all the activities I participate in, sitting at a desk in front of a computer was the one that led to my catastrophic failure. Sitting at a desk is bad for you. Sitting at a desk while still trying to participate in weekends full of adventure activities is worse and eventually led to jolting back spasms that would drop me to the floor. Two or three of these failures inspired me to do something different – follow my wife to her yoga class instructed by Albert.

As fortune would have it, Albert held the perspective that yoga could be a tool used to keep your body ready to pursue the activities that you enjoy. He taught the importance of flexibility and strength – pushing the flexible people to get strong while he pushed me to get flexible. He taught the importance of acknowledging where you are at today, physically and mentally and being OK with it but not accepting it as permanent. These lessons began my journey.

He also taught me the importance of acknowledging where you are today, physically and mentally, and being okay with it.

Two days ago, I realized my next lesson. I technically fail every time I set foot on the yoga mat. I initiate a series of Micro Failures; I never achieve the full realization of any of the poses. However, in these tiny failures have come my successes. These micro failures have allowed me to maintain the physical ability to pursue the activities I enjoy. Through all of them, I have learned that my Look-Good can survive failure. Because of each of them, I recover quicker from activities that push my physical ability. Most importantly, each of these micro failures encourages me to come back to the mat again, maybe more frequently and surely with the attitude, “I can’t do this yet.” But one day…

Todd serves as the Associate Director of Operations and Student Development at PSU’s Campus Rec. After his daily yoga class at the Rec Center, Todd enjoys parading through the office in his yoga attire. It greatly improves his “Look-Good.”