The Spectrum of Effort


sweat or tears?

Sweat pours from every inch of every body in this smelly, disgusting room. The towel on my yoga matt is drenched, slate blue where it once was gray, soaking up to the best of its ability while my vision floats somewhere between the ceiling and myself, unfocussed and unstrained in a restorative shavasana. We get thirty seconds here. Thirty beautiful, empty seconds.

“Go from one-hundred-percent effort to zero-percent effort,” the instructor says, a disembodied voice somewhere in another corner of the room. “Do it so quickly and so fully that everything in between disappears, like it never happened.”

I started taking Bikram yoga over a year ago to deal with some Hurricane Sandy-induced cabin fever, which was so significant it trumped all my years of humming and hawing over the aforementioned sweat and stink that was previously a workout deal breaker. The first class sent me out the door reeling in an exhaustion-induced, dehydration-riddled high that has since become more manageable in the year since I began practicing. But I don’t come for the highs anymore; I come to have my brain rewired within my skull, the thought processes altered in a way I cannot exactly describe. I come here for seemingly meaningless instructions that pertain to a pose that actually pertain to your life.

One-hundred-percent effort to zero-percent effort.

The words trigger a response in me that means I might be one of the girls who ends up crying in class. That happens – the crying. People burst into sobs at any old phrase, because, as I said, it’s not about the poses; it’s about what you’re doing in your life; it’s about what you’ve brought into the room. And today I’ve brought in an unbalanced, one-sided relationship that has gone on that way for too long.

It’s hard to let things go after months of work, but at a certain point, after waiting patiently for another person to come around, your enthusiasm begins to wane, sensing that you are never going to get a decent return on investment, if you’re ever going to get one at all. My efforts, for the last three months, have been those of restraint, a withholding of myself for the sake of another person’s bad timing. But what about my timing? What about me? How much time should you put into another person before you just let them go?

I guess at a certain point you can’t think about the wasted time, the could-have-beens or the what-ifs. You just move on, going from all to nothing in the blink of an eye. Like it never happened.

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