George S. Patton once said, “Now if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the mind tell the body what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
A few months ago, my yoga teacher informed me, “Some days I can do an inversion with ease and some days I can’t even come close. Your potential or lack there of is all in your head.” He sounded so sure of his assertion, but I found it hard to believe. I wondered: Is my mind the only thing standing between me and the completion of an inversion?
While I had my doubts, my teacher’s words remained ever-present in my head. The words screamed out at me on a cool September evening, beckoning me to test, once and for all, whether my mind was as powerful as my instructor suggested. In the privacy of my New York City apartment, on wooden floors, in a narrow hallway, I made the decision to complete a headstand.
I flattened my yoga mat to the ground and positioned myself over the thick rubber with fierce precision. I widened my stance and forward-folded between my legs until the top of my head touched the ground. I placed my hands flat on the mat, slightly behind the line of my feet until my body formed a perfect triangle.
Suddenly, I was not sure what changed, but I recognized a shift. My once-flimsy arms were now strong and sturdy like a foundation for a New York City skyscraper. My core felt tight like I had done a thousand crunches. My feet floated up until they were above my head, flat and facing the ceiling. I continued to float in a dream-like state, until I lost my foundation. I collapsed to the floor, banging my knee. Although I was in pain, I was more optimistic about my potential than ever before.
The Secret Weapon
“The spirit is larger than the body. The body is pathetic to what we have inside of us,” said Diana Nyad, an American author, journalist, motivational speaker, and long-distance swimmer.
Nyad recently published a book called, “Find A Way,” discussing how her competitive drive kept her motivated in the face of adversity, and allowed her to make swimming history in her 60’s. Despite facing emotional struggles such as being sexually abused by her swimming coach, and battling physical limitations as she got older, she continued to flourish.
When I read about Nyad and her success despite her struggles, I began to wonder: When one has hit their physical capacity, what makes one person continue towards success while another simply gives up? Are our minds so powerful that we can will ourselves to go on when our bodies do not feel capable?
The day I realized the full capacity within myself was a strange day, because the majority of the day was like any other. I did not feel stressed, lethargic, weak or sick. I felt eerily normal. I got on the train going home, eager to finish my current mystery novel. There were no seats on the 5 train but, again, this was normal. I stood, engulfed in my book and not phased by the crowd surrounding me. I felt my heart rate pick up and assumed the novel must have been having a profound effect on me.
I was suddenly fighting off a feeling of nausea so strong, I felt like I was a battling the worst hangover of my life. I groaned as I continued uptown to the dreaded 59th street station. For those who are unfamiliar, this New York City subway station is made up of multiple floors and stairwells, impossible to navigate and find an exit on your best day.
I tried to fight off the dizzying feeling taking me over as I wobbled up a set of stairs. I felt myself draining of all energy, helplessly trying to read signs, and pushing myself to find a way out. I collapsed to the ground, sweating profusely, and I saw strangers ignore me apathetically, through blurry vision. I pushed myself to stand up and finally made my way towards the last set of stairs, choking on my own breath.
As I finally reached the exit, cold air washed over me but I was still drenched in hot sweat. I weakly hobbled into a nearby eye-glass shop that conveniently contained a row of seats. I sat in one of the leather chairs and waited until the room stopped spinning and I began to feel like myself.
The experience was like a scary dream, as it came on so suddenly, with no particular trigger. I now believe I had a hypoglycemic attack, due to low blood sugar. However, there were moments during my episode that I thought I might die. Getting through this experience made me appreciate my inner-strength that willed me out of the subway station that day.
While my week was a challenging one, it pales vastly in comparison to the horrific experiences people are encountering around the world. ISIS is claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks this weekend, that killed at least 128 people with gunfire and blasts. In the wake of this horrendous violence, we are confronted with the questions: What if we are confronted with a horrific event that we have no control over? What do we do when our willpower is not enough to help us exit our current situation? What can we do to safeguard our lives?
Preparing For Battle
We can’t always anticipate negative events, but we can do our best to prepare ourselves. When it comes to a terrorist attack, we can avoid target areas and suspicious looking people, but we can never be sure when or where violence will strike. However, when we are struck with a sudden feeling of illness, we can at least pack medicine, water, or a healthy snack that may make us feel better.
Since my incident, I have been packing myself zip-lock bags of Laughing Giraffe Organics Snakaroons, a healthy take on macaroons that are vegan, gluten free and delicious. They come in all different flavors, but my current favorite is Pumpkin Spice.
I discovered snakaroons through my newest yogi indulgence — Yogi Surprise. My Yogi Surprise subscription allows me to receive a box of personalized, yoga-related gifts each month for less than $40. As captured in the picture below, my reaction to my surprise items each month is similar to a child’s excitement on Christmas Morning. If you love yoga as much as I do or would benefit from what is essentially a vacation in a box, check out the above link and surprise yourself!
When my instructor recently gave our class an opportunity to invert, I decided, once again, that I was going to complete a headstand. However, this time I was going to stay up. I was physically strong enough to do this, and after overcoming other challenges, I realized I also had the strength of mind. Not only did I will myself up into a headstand that day and stay up, but I was so confident in my strong foundation that I was no longer afraid of falling.
While we can do our best to lively cautiously, we should not let potential violence or illness affect the way we live our lives. In addition to fueling our bodies with healthy food, we can fuel our minds by having an optimistic outlook, and letting this guide us as we overcome daily challenges.
Dr. Steve Maraboli, a bestselling author, philanthropist, and key note speaker, said it best, “People tend to be generous when sharing their nonsense, fear and ignorance. And while they seem quite eager to feed you their negativity, please remember that the diet we need to be on is a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel you into positive action.”