I love teaching yoga in February, because February has the best yoga holiday. Nope, I don’t mean Valentine’s Day (even though yoga IS all about love.) I’m talking about Groundhog Day!
A few years ago I re-watched the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” and realized it is a flawless metaphor for an Original Hot Yoga class. In the movie (just in case you haven’t seen it recently), Bill Murray’s character keeps waking up on February 2nd and repeating the same exact day over and over and over.
That is kind of what it feels like when you start practicing the same 26 postures and two breathing exercises over and over again. Each time you walk into the room, you do the same postures in the same order. You hear the same words. You’re in the same hot room with the same people. A lot of people don’t understand this at first. “Why would anyone want to suffer through the same situation over and over and over again?”
Bill Murray has the same reaction at first. He thinks it’s a nightmare. He thinks that he’s been cursed! That he’s trapped forever waking up at the same time, hearing the same song on the radio, stepping in the same puddle every morning.
But what happens next? He gets smart. He starts remembering. He remembers not to step in the puddle. He starts learning. He figures out how to be in the right spot to save the kid who falls out of the tree. He starts experimenting. What’s the right thing to say to the girl? Oops, that wasn’t it. Oh well, try again tomorrow. He starts growing. He takes a piano lesson with the same teacher each day until he’s gone from a beginner to an expert.
And sure, from time to time he does get pissed off, kidnap Puxatawney Phil, and drive his car off a cliff. But that was just a bad day. He’ll do it differently tomorrow.
This is exactly what we can do in our yoga practice. By going through the same routine every day, we have a tremendous opportunity to learn and experiment and grow. We can try new things every time and see what works and what doesn’t. If something doesn’t go quite right today, we can come back in and try something different tomorrow.
They say that insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result. But we don’t have to do the same thing over and over again. Every time we step onto the mat, we have an opportunity to try doing things a little bit differently, to listen a little bit better, to learn from our bodies, to grow in our practice.
The key is memory. (Anybody who’s seen the series Westworld will be familiar with this idea.) If we were to just mechanically repeat the same motions over and over again in a loop, with no memory of what happened the last time, we’d be little more than intelligent robots. But when we start to remember and learn from our experiences, we become fully realized human beings.
This concept repeats itself at every level of our lives, from the personal to the global. When we lose sight of where we’ve been, we tend to repeat the same mistakes – in our intimate lives, in our family lives, in our professional lives, in our global lives. Memory gives us the ability to learn from past events and make more skillful decisions in the future. There is nothing more human than the act of remembering, and nothing more dangerous than the act of forgetting.
Keep this in mind when you step onto your yoga mat and begin the same breathing exercises, the same postures, the same routine. Practice with attention and mindfulness. On your mat, you practice the essential skills of being human, so that you can go out into the world and be the best version of yourself. It takes a lot of practice, but it is worth it – the world needs you!