I am writing this post at 2:20 A.M. because I forgot my limits today. Instead of one or maybe two cups of coffee, I had three, and then I went on to have a latte.
I have my excuses. We were down at Costanoa on a birthday getaway for Matt. If you’ve never been to Costanoa, well, you should go.
It’s a little piece of heaven perched on the edge of the Pacific, halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, and it has something for everyone. You can stay for cheap in one of the tent cabins or go for true comfort in the lodge, hike up the mountains or down to the beach, have a massage or sit in the hot tub, and eat some of the best local food on the coast. No matter what you choose, the views are breathtaking and rejuvenating. You will forget all your cares and worries.
And, like me, you may even forget your caffeine limit. While Matt got his birthday massage, I sat in bed, worked on my novel, and drank an entire pot of coffee.
But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about limits anyway, so naturally when the caffeine kicked in at 1:15 A.M. and I awoke feeling like I’d just popped a handful of speed, I found myself spinning on that very topic.
The truth is I hate limits. I’m know I’m not alone in this.
(For goodness sake, look at Donald Drumpf. There’s a man who doesn’t know his limits.)
Don’t we all start off life complaining about our limits? The limit of the highchair or carseat, the backyard, bedtime and the school day, the size of our room or the size of our town? Very early on we face limits to our time and to our space. And then, as life goes on, we are forced to face our personal limits, which may be the most cruel of all limits. Or perhaps death is the cruelest limit. But let’s not get too morbid, here. Personal limits are depressing enough.
I know, I know. You’re not reading this post to be brought down. What you really want to read here is how the sky is the limit, and that you can accomplish anything you set your sights on. Climb any mountain. Cross every sea. Be an Olympic star. A Nobel Prize winner. Put that Pulitzer in your pocket. Grab that Grammy. Be President of the United States.
Well, I’m not going to tell you those things. (So if you don’t want to hear the opposite, you should stop reading now.)
No. I’m going to tell you about how bad it is when you don’t observe your limits.
Of course, it was really yoga that really got me thinking about my limits. There is nothing like setting yourself a goal (Year of Yoga) to slam you into a solid wall, built brick by brick with your own very real limits.
The first limit I faced was time. How does one fit three yoga classes into an already too full week? For the first several months it seemed almost possible. Then Matt’s work schedule went into overdrive, kids got sick, and suddenly even one yoga class was hard to fit in.
Then there was the limit of space. This limit was actually twofold. First was the limit of how far to walk or bike or drive for a class. Second was the lack of space, in a living room full of Keva block creations or cushion castles, for even my 2×3 foot yoga mat.
But then, most frustrating of all, there are the limits of my body. These are various and sundry, and they seem to grow in number with the passing years.
I realize that one big reason I go to yoga classes (rather than stay at home to practice) is that I can watch the instructor turning herself upside down or into a pretzel, and believe that I will one day be able to do so, too. That belief isn’t all bad.
Except when, like me, you don’t acknowledge your limits. Or maybe you glance at them in passing, give a terse nod or a little wave. But probably you just ignore them, because really, who wants limits?
Deena, my amazing physical therapist, basically told me I must not only say hello to my limits, but actually invite my limits over for dinner, and then make them my best friends. She said, “You’re the kind of person who pushes yourself, I can tell. When your yoga instructor gives some little verbal suggestion to another student, you make that same adjustment even when you shouldn’t. When she gives you three options, you go for the hardest one. And that’s hurting your neck. So you need to back off.”
Well, I did. For a while. Then my neck started feeling better. And I canceled the dinner date with my limits.
I began taking a Saturday morning Level 2-3 class with Colleen Millen. This is an intense class and I love it, but it wipes me out physically and mentally. I am utterly useless for the rest of the day. I can’t write or clean my house or even be very present for my kids. After several Saturdays of this, I’ve come to the frustrating recognition that the class is too hard for me. (Hah. Even as I wrote that I was thinking to myself, “Too hard right now.” Still straining against that limit, obviously.)
I also ignored my limits in other classes. Last week, when my teacher put us into bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), and offered the option to put a block under our back before we went into bridge pose with one leg up (Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), I eschewed that silly block. Then she had us strap our ankle, roll our shoulders under, and go back into Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Again, did I acknowledge my limits? Nope.
The result was a sprain to my AC joint:
Yes, ouch. But also very demoralizing. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do yoga for weeks, that I would lose all the flexibility and strength and good health I’d built these past six months, that my Year of Yoga project was doomed to fail. And all because I’d ignored my very real limits.
I think the most dangerous thing about not acknowledging limits is that, in reaching too far past those limits, we don’t accept the very good place we’re in at the moment. Kind of like wanting to get one step closer to the edge of the cliff for that better view of the ocean… and then falling off.
Well, I iced my shoulder, and swallowed the obligatory Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), and took the week off from yoga. Now the joint feels better. Tomorrow, I will not be taking the hard class. I will be using the props. I will be grateful for my limits.
It’s hard. We always want more. More space, more time. To be better than we are. To be the best that we can be. To have it all. But isn’t that how we got to where we are now? That kind of hubris has led us to the cliff and right over the edge… onto the rocks of climate change, over-population, mass species extinction, late-night caffeine-induced insomnia, and Donald Drumpf.
So please, folks, take it from me. Acknowledge those limits. They are your friends.
If you enjoyed what you read here, please feel free to Share on Facebook and Follow this blog (relevant buttons can be found at the bottom of this page)!