After catching up on my issue of Vogue the other day, I was reminded of something pretty amazing. Now, typically when I read Vogue, I’m mostly just reminded that I’m poor and should probably move to Europe and magically become the daughter of an aristocrat. But whatever.
This wonderful reminder came as I was reading a piece about the ups and downs of Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne (“Crown Heights,” by Amanda Foreman). The piece ends with this:
“Perhaps the lesson to be taken from Elizabeth’s extraordinary return to favor is the adage first made popular by the Victorian novelist George Eliot: ‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’”
It’s never too late to be what you might have been. Now that is something I can work with — because after all, if we can’t learn to change, to adapt, to learn new ways of thinking and of behaving, well, what is the point of living anyway?
I like thinking of the Queen, adapting and moving with the times — from her abolishment of spouse – only guest policies at state banquets, to her revamp of her personal fashion style – and as she changed, so did her public perception. For the better.
We have to learn how to change and adapt. This change I’m talking about could be any number of things: Obvious ones, like a smoker kicking the habit or subtle changes like a boyfriend shifting the tone of voice he uses when talking to his girlfriend about certain subjects. This change might even be imperceptible to outsiders. Yet it doesn’t make it any less significant.
And it is possible.
Some people say they hate change, but I have grown to find that change can be a beautiful thing. We can make significant changes in our lives simply due to our own desire to do so. Don’t believe me? Fiiine. Let me tell you a little story.
This past fall, I decided to try yoga. I don’t even know what triggered me to do this, but I was frustrated with the fact that I could never commit to an exercise routine, and the fact that by the end of the day, I felt so sluggish all I wanted to do was pass out on the couch. The previous spring, I had started going to the gym. I even briefly worked with a personal trainer, but then I ran out of training sessions. One day I pulled a muscle in my back. Next thing I knew, I hadn’t exercised in weeks. Weeks turned into almost three months.
So after all those hazy, half-awake evenings wasted on the couch, I thought again about how much better I felt when I was active and suddenly yoga came to mind. If you had told me three years ago that I would not only decide to try doing yoga, but that I would fall in love with it, I would have laughed in your face. Seriously. I would have busted out laughing. I have had an aversion to the idea of yoga for what seems like forever. For years, I’ve stared at the suggested workouts in magazines, almost all of them yoga and think about trying them, followed by:
A few years ago, I dated someone whose mother was a yoga instructor. He’d be a ball of energy after doing mysterious stretches in his living room, saying strange things about “sun salutations” and “downward dogs” — I’d think how weird the notion of a “down dog” was, then go back to reading my book and feeling annoyed by his energy. A couple of times, he tried in vain to get me to attend his mother’s yoga class (if I remember correctly, my stubborn refusal led to a rather embarrassing argument in Border’s). No way. I was not going to a yoga class. I was not going to sun salute in the effing living room.
But then, I would see lithe, calm-looking young women on the train, a yoga mat rolled up and nestled in their bag. I would scowl at them. Yet inside, I secretly wished that I could be the type of woman who commutes across the city with a yoga mat in her bag. Later, further evidence about the magical powers of yoga happened when one of my co-workers started strolling in the office with a grin and energy levels that seemed almost manic as she hopped on my desk where I sat slumped, drinking instant hot cocoa. Her face was glowing. It was actually glowing.
“I’ve been doing hot yoga!” she would squeal. “I’ve been getting up at 5…”
And then I tuned her out. Getting up at 5 in order to take a bus halfway across the city, only to enter a steaming, 98-degree-heated room packed with all those lithe, calm-looking young women I’m seeing on the train? No, thank you. I will stay in bed and sleep. So when I thought again this fall about how much I wanted to be active, I said nothing about it. I just decided to do it.
I started with something so simple, it was almost embarrassing: I found an “AM Yoga Wakeup” video on Hulu. It was a 15-minute routine. Soon, I started doing the routine almost every morning. I couldn’t believe it. After just 15 minutes, I would feel incredible. I’d walk to the train each morning feeling energized, taller and… calm. I learned how to do a tree pose without falling down and even more surprising, I learned what tree pose means.
It was a slow change, but it happened. It’s still happening. I was scared to move on to a more challenging, longer routine. But I did. I’ve started more advanced routines and try to attend a Vinyasa class at my neighborhood yoga studio once every week or so, in addition to my at-home routines.
Now, if I wasn’t yammering about yoga constantly to anyone who speaks to me, no one might even know that I started doing yoga. I am actually more muscular and my pants fit much better, but it is a slight change from the outside — maybe one only perceptible to me, even. But that’s not the point. It’s the way falling in love with yoga made me feel.
I think about how I’ve changed, how I went from someone who sneered at the idea of yoga to someone who is in love with it and is hoping to learn to do handstands and crow poses. It took me a long time to admit it, but it wasn’t that I hated the idea of yoga. I was scared that I would be unable to do it. I was scared I would fail. And sometimes I do. Sometimes I fall over during a standing pose. Sometimes my thighs burn and hurt so badly during a Warrior pose that I want to just say “Screw it,” and re-watch last week’s New Girl episode. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to even hold a headstand, let alone a handstand. But I’m going to keep stepping into that Warrior, even if the teacher has to come correct my pose. Even if my thighs are shaking and I just want to stop. Because it’s more than just yoga.
It’s the fact that I tried something new that scared me, and I love it. It’s the fact that I have gone from being a person who could never commit to a workout routine to a person who is antsy to roll out my mat and do a routine. I changed! So don’t tell me you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Six months ago, I didn’t know what chaturanga was. Now I am chaturanga-ing my face off.
I’m not trying to say we all need to go run out and do yoga (but seriously, do yoga!), and I’m not saying a change has to be something like starting a new exercise routine. But this change in my life helps me to remember that we can all change, and for the better. I have to remember to have faith in others and in myself. I let myself down all the time. Inevitably, other people will let you down too. So when I mess up, or someone else hurts me, I try to think of it like my tree pose — I might fall down today, but tomorrow I can try to keep standing. After all, it’s never too late to be what you might have been.
Feature image via.