This weekend while visiting my bestie, Erin, in Minnesota, I finally had the chance to try paddle boarding. Something I’ve been dying to try since I spotted a moonlit paddle board excursion advertised on Facebook. And then I found out you can even do yoga on a paddle board (because yoga on the solid earth isn’t challenging enough?). Heck, I bet you could even train your goat to hop on too. #goatyoga
So, Erin and I are standing on the dock near the water and she’s demonstrating an “easy” way to mount the board. Her example was smooth. Simple. Easy.
Step one – tuck the front half of the board under the dock.
Step two – turn around and mount the vessel backward #thatswhatshesaid
Step three –
Try not to fall in. Breathe and relax your knees.
When it was my turn, my legs were suddenly trembling. And, though I’m an excellent swimmer, the lake was frigid, people were watching me, and by golly I did NOT want to fall in.
With much trepidation, I prepared to step off the dock while Erin kept the board steady. “You got this, you’ll do just fine,” she reassures.
Determined to win (because literally everything is a competition), I first test the board with my big toe… and suddenly I’m teetering and tottering and convinced I’m going to flip over like an idiot. Why did I think standing on a board on the water was a good idea? Did I think I was JESUS? #notjesus
“You’re doing fine,” Erin reiterates. “You’re a natural!”
Yeah right. I bet you say that to all your friends right before they plummet into the watery abyss…
Thankfully, I’m quite stubborn and I do a fair amount of yoga (thank you, Adriene), so I manage to stay upright – even though this is the exact moment ski boats have chosen to whip their fancy asses around the cove.
One side paddle, then another on the opposite side. This feels nothing like a kayak… I am completely out of my element. The wakes trailing the ski boats lap against the board, and the moment one foot dips lower than the other, I feel out of control and unbalanced. I instinctively clench into a tight wad and stop breathing.
Just then I hear Erin call from the shore, “Breathe! Relax your legs!”
Though my control-freak brain is advising otherwise, I follow her orders. I let myself breathe. My chest opens up and my gaze lifts from my feet to the horizon ahead of me. My legs loosen.
And then I notice it. In lieu of my death-gripping white-knuckled attempt at controlling the paddle board, my feet are instinctively rolling with the waves. My upper body is released. And I actually feel stable.
I’ve always heard about how paddle boarding is such an intense ab workout – and maybe it is – but as I glided across the lake with increasing confidence, it slowly emerged as a metaphor for my life:
I tend to muscle my way through most everything – literally and figuratively. My life’s circumstances have taught me from a young age that suiting up and powering through is the only way to survive. Recent years, however, have revealed a new truth – something I realized on the paddle board. As soon as I stopped trying to control the board – forcing it to do what I wanted it to – and started paying attention to the waves and letting my relaxed, oxygen filled body feel the waves and let the board react how it needed to – I felt so very stable and balanced.
So balanced, in fact, that I figured out how to go from standing to all fours, to cobra, plank, and downward dog. At one point I flipped over on my back and just rested for a while. Literally. Yoga on a paddle board.
How many times in my life do I strive to control the “waves?” To make my life go how I want it to go, rather than relaxing, taking stock and asking myself – how can I care for myself in the midst of this challenge? How can I adapt and adjust to the way things are? How can I accept the reality of an incoming torrent and be peaceful enough to think clearly and respond well?
And so I pass this challenge along to you. Notice the waves below your feet. Breathe. And then let your vessel roll. Trust your body. Your intuition. Your senses. To make the right choices about these incoming waves. It’s the only way you’ll stay upright. It’s the only way to keep the horizon in view. Breathe. Relax your knees. Feel the waves.