The word achievement rarely hits me in a literal sense. Most of my days revolve around tasks and accomplishments, usually in a procedural sense: what got checked off the to-do list in the office today? Did the kids get to school on time, and with all their stuff? Did I remember everything on the shopping list I forgot to bring to the market? And my exercise, such as it is, usually takes on rote forms: 12 miles round trip on the bike to the office, one round of golf, a full hour of effort in the yoga studio, walking home from the far subway station. Not much in the way of achievement.
In the depths of a severe winter, I was happy today that I got to yoga at all. (That in itself felt like a bit of an achievement.) So when our instructor told the room to pair off for headstands, I smiled and decided to pass. I’d never done it and wasn’t about to try.
“Are you going to do a headstand?” the instructor asked me. Nah.
“Do you want a spot?” said the guy next to me. Nah. “Me neither!” he smiled.
But then a woman meandered over to me from several mats away. She hadn’t paired off with anyone. “Do you want me to spot you?” I asked her.
“Oh, no, already did it myself, I don’t need a spotter. What about you?”
“No, I can’t do a headstand.”
“How do you know? Why don’t I spot you?”
I sized up my new companion—older than me, relaxed, already done with her headstand—and realized saying no was no longer the right answer. “I guess I can try,” I said.
Down I went onto my yoga mat, head between arms, legs in a crouch. I gave a little kick and suddenly my legs were over my head. I could feel my spotter holding my left leg, firmly as I straightened my knees, then lighter as I found my balance. I was sure I’d fall at any moment yet I didn’t. I spent a good long while upside-down before bringing my legs back down without falling.
I sat back up on my knees. I was startled. Elated. Proud. Really proud and elated. I think I thanked my spotter four times for the encouragement. “You were good!” she said. “No shaking or swaying at all.” She pointed to the person next to me to show me a comparable pose.
I found myself beaming uncontrollably. “You made my night,” I said by way of a final thank-you.
When I got home, my kids asked me how yoga was (they both enjoy it themselves) and I found myself bragging to them like a kid myself. “I did a headstand!” I exclaimed, then helped the three-year-old do one. He beamed, too.
Life’s rhythms for a dad in his 40s are pretty workaday. Finding areas in which to achieve reminds us of how much more we can do when we take the initiative. My own little achievement wasn’t on par with running a marathon or finishing a novel, but the visceral experience resonated strongly. It has me excited to try harder at yoga, and to find more areas to experience that intense feeling of achievement again, whether I’m blogging or working or parenting or biking or whatever else may come next.
Thank you, yoga spotter, for the encouragement and the endorphin rush. You really did make my night.