Can't Feel the Beat? Dance Anyway.

Because of my frequent travel, it’s difficult to attend any yoga or dance class with consistency. I’ll attend a class for a few weeks, then be away for two months. I know my favorite instructors and always assume that it will be easy for me to drop back in where I left off.

I recently went to a dance class that I loved taking—a fun class with hip hop and Latin moves and loud music. I loved it so much that I scheduled to catch a flight the following day just so I could attend the class.

The teacher is a former NBA and NFL dancer with long flowing hair that she doesn’t put in a ponytail. She dances in those hip sneakers with hidden heels.

I had been to a yoga class the hour before, so I figured I was “limbered up” enough for dance.

As soon as the music started, all of the moves that I loved to do escaped me. I couldn’t do them in that moment. Or the next one. Or the next one.

Call it lack of grace, lack of rhythm, or lack of groove.

I tried smiling, using that “Fake it till you make it” technique, thinking, “Yeah! This is fun!” but it felt forced. I looked in the mirror at my smile pasted on my face, and it made dancing that much more arduous.

It was an hour-long class and I looked at the clock Every. Five. Minutes.

There were so many moments that I thought of walking out.

I didn’t.

It won’t feel amazing all the time.

At some point during the class, I found myself wondering: why did I assume it should?

Sometimes you have to stay the course even though you aren’t feeling it. It isn’t always possible to feel the sense of effortless ease we see in perfectly lit Instagrams photos of yogis and dancers and models. Sometimes it’s awkward, or ugly, or weird. And that’s okay.

Willpower is a muscle. We can, over time, create habits that help us overcome our discomfort or fear so we can do what we really want to do. In the greater scheme of things, that’s what makes it possible for us to feel the way we want to feel.

So I kept dancing

I thought back to the training I’ve done for marathons and triathlons. I’d forgotten about all of the times that I didn’t feel like running, swimming, or biking, but I did it anyway because I had to.

Let’s be clear: it would be one thing if I was pushing through and forcing myself to dance.

But I wanted to dance. I just wasn’t feeling 100% in tune with the beat. I felt off in my body, and was hard on myself for not enjoying the class as much as I used to.

I stayed and finished because I know that overall, dancing is good for my soul.

I love the music and moving my body that way, even if it doesn’t look perfect.

I wish I could say that in the last 30 seconds of the class I found my groove and it was magical and I rocked it. YEAH!

But I never found that magical moment, that switch that allows me to turn on and open up to feeling fantastic, that sensation of flow with the music and the beat. Even though I kept anticipating that sweet spot where I could catch and ride the wave, it never came.

I didn’t walk away from the class feeling any kind of euphoric high, but still I left with a sense of accomplishment. I showed up. I went to yoga AND dance, and I stayed through the end.

I realized that if my experience didn’t have a particular feeling associated with it or if it didn’t meet my expectations, then I judged it as less than. Less than perfect. Less than ideal. Less than measuring up to my idea of what I’m supposed to feel and look like when I take a class.

Who am I to judge my practice?

It’s PRACTICE.

It’s my responsibility to find gratitude for the privilege of having this beautiful, capable body, access to world-class teachers, access to fantastic facilities where I have the freedom to wear whatever I want and dance without fear of retribution. I had another day to dance, another chance to connect with my body, another day of freedom.

There are going to be a lot of times when we do something that’s good for us and in alignment with who we want to be, and it will fall very very short of feeling delicious like sparkly, champagne bubbly. It will fall so short that we want to walk away from it and say, “I’ll try again tomorrow. I’m not feeling it right now.

Yet those are precisely the moments we most need to keep going, as long as we are not pushing through any kind of physical or muscular pain.

The pain we’re pushing through is emotional: resistance and discomfort.

That’s how we strengthen our willpower muscles.

And our dancing muscles, as the case may be — the ability to stay open, surrender, and most importantly, keep moving.

What’s something that you are resisting you know that in the long run, it’s really really good for you? What’s stopping you? Is it timing, getting out of your comfort zone, or that you don’t feel 100% up to doing it?I’d love to know, so leave a comment below.  

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