challenging normality. what does that immediately bring to mind? i'm not talking about believing in vampire neighbors, and i'm not talking about wearing undies on the outside. what i mean is challenging what we think of as normal.
"normal" in our yoga: opening into the same variation of trikonasa each time. ignoring the chaturanga and zooming through our vinyasas. doing the same closing sequence at the end of each practice.
"normal" in our environments: walking by the bum that lives on the corner a few blocks away each day and not really registering his presence. buying a coffee without acknowledging the barista.
"normal" in our heads: having to do two more things before going to bed. cursing the driver in front of our car who cuts us off.
what happens if we do a pose differently? or go to a yoga teacher's class we don't normally practice with? it sometimes feels uncomfortable, or challenging. what happens if we offer some food to the man living on the street, or say hi to the person making our coffee? those things may feel uncomfortable, or awkward. and what happens if we change necessities or responses in our minds? that can feel uncomfortable, or frightening.
for me, challenging the normal in my head is the hardest, and is very scary. i can convince myself that my thoughts are all completely rational, and somehow i believe this most of the times. but i was reminded of how abnormal my reality is today while reading a book by a woman who is in recovery from EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). she wrote about her treatment center and the "crazy" things people said and did inside (including herself). but over and over throughout the time i spent reading her accounts, i found myself thinking "what, that's not normal? i think that all the time!" oh, wait. it probably isn't normal; i've just convinced myself it is.
i've convinced myself that it's normal to do a minimum 75 minutes of cardio each day. why 75? because "regular" people might do 60, and i'm a fitness instructor, so i need to do more. also, if some unforeseen natural disaster occurs, i may need to take a day off, and i need to have at least 7 hours done in a week. and this is normal to me because i run marathons and teach fitness classes... and thus socialize with other runners and instructors. these highly competitive people will talk about hours of training as if it is nothing. i listen to athletes talk about their schedules and think, "eh, i could do that." but is that normal? to convince myself i have to do all of this every day? in addition to committing time to my work, my home responsibilities, my relationships... and my yoga/myself?
i've convinced myself that it's normal that i count every single calorie that i eat and expend, that it's ok to ask for every single item cooked in a specific way, to not eat something when i'm hungry because i think it is a "bad" food, unsafe, or because i haven't expended enough energy in the day to earn it. my brain constantly whirs numbers, adding, subtracting, estimating, compensating, and planning. this is normal to me because i've been doing it forever. i have millions of friends who diet, eat strange things or don't eat other things, or who regularly skip meals for "reasonable" reasons. and all of them say or post things about these habits regularly, infiltrating my mind and further cementing my version of normal. but is that normal? to convince myself that i'm not allowed to have dinner until i've burned another 400 calories? to tire my body until i don't have the energy for the things i want to do in my life?
we all have things we do: things we've rationalized to ourselves so often that we've forgotten we're rationalizing. it may be in your yoga, your environment, your head, somewhere else, or even a combination of places.
when i reflect on my version of normal, i can realize that some things are out of balance. but we often don't reflect on our normal. why would we? it's normal! ...what happens regularly; what we're used to. then, when something comes along to challenge that normality, we're surprised, a little shocked even. maybe a little sad or ashamed. thinking about my own normal, and what i regularly steal from myself, is upsetting.
challenging that normality is the next step: taking baby steps away from our comfort zone to find new normals. it may be different for you, but for me, it's easy to challenge myself in my yoga or in my environment. i don't mind trying new things, doing things differently, or being totally opposite to every other person on this planet. but challenging my crazy-mind? now that's a tough one. practicing in other areas of my life makes me feel like i'm taking baby steps (i taught a weird freestyle movement breathing-pattern-thingy in my yoga class tonight--does that count? i waited and watched someone taking a short video instead of rushing around the back of the videographer in a frenzied rush--does that count? i sat and relaxed for 10 minutes and then walked instead of running to make the earlier train--does that count?). baby steps everywhere!
but tonight i'm going to try to take a normal step. we'll see how it goes.