My high school weight room had the words, “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” emblazoned across the walls in huge, paint-stenciled letters. It was a motto for the football team’s weight-training program, but the remaining 99.4 percent of the student body that wasn’t on the team also was subjected to this ridiculous mantra in gym class. Incidentally, it’s also the name of a 2008 documentary film about the use of anabolic steroids as performance-enhancing drugs. Draw your own conclusions.
I remember thinking that we’d probably be better off as a student body (and a society) if we adorned the walls with something like, “Smarter, Kinder, Friendlier.” But alas, I attended a microcosm of Varsity Blues where athletics—particularly football—ruled the ranks.
It makes sense in theory, especially if you drive monster trucks or are assembling an army, but it often takes more strength to know when to step back from a situation than it does to persevere to a dangerous point. The best athletes are those who work tirelessly, but also listen to their bodies and take breaks when they need to recover.
This is a part of yoga that I love the most. Yoga teaches that it’s important to reassess how you’re feeling in every class, regardless of whether you’re a rookie or an expert practitioner. Some days things aren’t in synch, or we’re tired, or healing from an injury, and we need to sit out some of the more challenging portions. No matter the reason, yoga embraces the philosophy that it takes more strength to know when take a break than it does to push yourself carelessly.
But the ability to discern when to keep going and when to hang out in child’s pose is tough. We’re wired from a young age to strive for everything we can imagine, or risk the F word. For years I was terrified of failing or not meeting the expectations of others. It impacted how I made big decisions and caused me a lot of unneeded stress.
Among the blessings of getting older is an awareness that failure is far more complicated that a simple win or loss. It’s just a sign that another way or a different time might be better.