By Nicole Unice
I’m an exercise adventurer; boring workouts do nothing for me. So I’m always up for a new wacky class, race or experience, and last week I wrangled a friend into joining me in a hot yoga session. Who knew I’d be sweating my way into some new insights about leadership?
The ninety minute class is a hardcore exerciser’s dream. With the room a sweltering 100 degrees, the instructor alternately cajoles and commands participants into twenty-six pretzel-like poses, resulting in drip-off-your-nose sweat.
The series of standing poses, moving up in intensity, were right up my workout alley—breathing heavily, sweating profusely, working hard, getting through it.
When the standing poses ended and our instructor took us to the floor, we were forced, er, began, to add a rest pose between every demanding activity. After gripping my ankles and forcing my body into a crooked boat shape, I was told to rest: the savasana pose. Lay down. Be still. As I laid there for the longest twenty seconds of my life, I had time to feel. To feel my heart pounding in my head. To feel fatigue in my muscles. To feel weak. And I hated it. I didn’t want to stop and feel. I wanted to push—push through and push on.
But the resting poses continued and after every exertion, I was reminded, again about the discipline and effort it takes to rest. To feel. To embrace the weakness and actually listen to what Christ wants to say in my spirit.
Similar to my workouts, intensity is where I thrive as a leader. When it’s time to push, to go, to perform and make it happen, I’m your woman. I love action, intensity and a new challenge. I thrive in the pressure. But resting? This is not my style. Choosing to rest, to take my body and soul from working hard to being still? This does not come easily.
In fact, I am often far away from this balance in my leadership. I choose to serve and give without observing a sabbath in my soul. I sometimes ignore and avoid God’s voice by staying really, really busy. Instead I must choose to be aware of this unbalanced tendency and discipline myself to rest.
When I rest, I feel my weakness. And when I feel my weakness, I am reminded that I live in a body that is wasting away (2 Cor 4:16). But the strength of Christ renews me. Each day is a choice: a life lived by listening and keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25), or a life lived pushing forward with my own timing and agenda. I don’t naturally choose to rest. To choose to rest is to die to myself and embrace the true Way, the way of surrender and God’s control, but I do know it’s necessary if I truly want to thrive.
I still do not like this pose in yoga – hot or otherwise. When I think about my next class, I am already dreading that heart-pounding, forced-rest feeling. Yet I know in the deepest places of me, it is just the pose I need to take--in hot yoga, in leadership, and in my posture toward God’s work in my life.
Does work or rest come easily to you? What do you do to cultivate balance in your leadership and life?