Comfort Zones, November Goals, and "My Yoga Online" Review

(Logo by Crispin Lefay)

We all know, because it's gospel in the self improvement world, that we're supposed to keep pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones as often as we possibly can.  Right?

Well, I have some thoughts about that. Shocking thoughts! Be forewarned.

Plus we've got a review of the My Yoga Online subscription I've been enjoying, and a giveaway winner to announce from last month.  And I can't wait to read what everyone is up to as the holiday season looms menacingly approaches!

Yet before I get to any of that I need to apologize yet again for not even replying to most of the last couple of posts comments, and neglecting to do much blog visiting while I was gone.  As to this most recent reason why this blog sucks, I blame travel to NYC, taking (and passing! yay!) the ACE health coach certification exam, and internet shenanigans at the "Dream" Hotel.  This prevented me from commenting via laptop and restricted me to thumb typing on my droid--which, speaking of comfort zones--is well outside of mine.  I'm old school and have short stubby fat fingers and little patience for minuscule keyboards.

On the plus side, the hotel did have a few interesting characters hanging out in the lobby.

I would have preferred two-way internet, but whatever.

But since this is a monthly Goals Post, in which commenting and replying to others is highly cherished, I WILL be replying to all (noncommercial) comment threads... yet, again it might take me a day or two. Sorry! Life continues to conspire to make blogging difficult, as we are taking off today for our annual San Diego migration, with a 5 day stopover in, um, Frisco Texas. Stay tuned. I believe Frisco might offer fewer distractions from blogging than New York City. Just a hunch.

Anyway so back to the matter at hand: comfort zones. And here's my shocking advice:

Go Ahead and Stay Happily in Your Comfort Zone Whenever The Hell You Can Get Away With It!

This is not what most health bloggers would say.  In fact all over the web, you see inspirational messages like:

Whatever.  I say screw that nonsense.

I mean sure, if you're one of those people whose comfort zone includes leaping into uncomfortable situations, then knock yourself out and go right ahead.

Or even if you're "normal" and have been taught to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and you always feel really glad you did afterwards, even if you were kinda miserable while doing it... well, if that works for you, that's great too.

However, if you, like me, are part of the silent segment of society that likes to hang out in peaceful pleasant non-stressful comfort whenever possible, I say: it's time we stop apologizing for this! So I hereby pronounce:

It's OK to Embrace Your Comfort Zone!

How about we stop pretending to be like the Uncomfort-lovers who can't help pushing themselves into painful and/or terrifying situations out of the delusion that pain and terror are virtuous states? What if we accept and celebrate who we are? Let's freely acknowledge what we really like in life: for things to be fun and easy, not hard and scary.

(That last word is "naps," not "maps."
 I am actually quite hopeless at reading maps).

But wait, you may be saying... Isn't this cheating? Isn't it weak and wrong to stay in your comfort zone?

I say: heck no it isn't!

I don't believe there is anything morally wrong about being comfortable, or inherently virtuous about being uncomfortable.  To prefer ease to distress is a legitimate, and in my mind, completely logical, lifestyle choice.  At least as long as one takes ownership of one's choices and the consequences thereof.  Comfort-seekers shouldn't get all grumpy about not achieving the same objective results at the same velocity as those folks who are constantly catapulting themselves out into their Discomfort zones.

Wallendas: not so big on comfort zones.

But does this mean we comfort-seekers will never grow, learn, or experience new exciting things in life like the moth-to-flame discomfort seekers?

Hell no!  That would eliminate the "fun" part from "fun and easy" wouldn't it?

The trick is, in my mind, learning to expand your comfort zone gradually from inside, so it gets ever bigger and more entertaining and adventurous. Yet avoiding, wherever practicable, big scary leaps outside that leave you shaking and traumatized and vowing never ever ever to wander far from the familiar again.

Here's where the post could get really long. I could offer many examples of personal growth and achievement that proceeded slowly and comfortably and yet ended up at places that might have seemed unimaginable at the start.

But you can imagine, and probably have witnessed or experienced, many of these yourself.

Instead, here are a few notes of caution should you chose to ignore all that pro-discomfort nagging and decide to Embrace and Optimize Your Comfort Zone:

Beware of Comfort Zone Shrinkage

The dynamic properties of comfort zones can lead to expansion, but also to contraction. Especially, for many of us, as we age. Situations that used to seem reasonably familiar and invigorating can start to seem more challenging, and eventually slip into the Discomfort Zone if we start defining comfort ever more narrowly.  Be alert to subtle signs of receding comfort! Best to avoid suddenly finding yourself trapped in a cramped dingy comfort zone that smells like microwaved frozen dinners and dirty laundry and mildew, and hardly allows any sparkly light or music or excitement or adventure anymore.

Make Your Comfort-Driven Choices Conscious

Over time, our priorities can shift.  So sure, it may be that you want to choose to widen your zone in some areas and accept some shrinkage in others.  But there can be a mindlessness about this process that doesn't serve our real need for comfort.  Beware of unconsciously attending more to what other people think is important or unimportant and letting your own precious sense of what is fun and meaningful dwindle.

Comfort Doesn't Mean Inactivity

[photo: brkinhrt2]

It is uncomfortable to have serious health problems, or find you've somehow lost the nerve to ever say "no" to anyone, or to be trapped in a job with an asshole boss or in a marriage with an abusive partner or to get stuck living in a location you hate. In order to keep your comfort zone comfortable, you may have to actively Do Things while they are still within your zone even if they are not right smack in the center of it.

Sometimes the choice is not between Comfortable Inaction and Uncomfortable Action. Instead it may be between a "within comfort zone but challenging" step now, versus a "horribly uncomfortable out of zone" experience later.

For example, if someone were to ask you to choose to voluntarily sign up for a stroke or a heart attack, this would obviously seem like a Big Uncomfortable Leap out of your zone. Ouch, excruciating pain! And financial devastation! And hospitals and bedpans and crappy food and icky medical procedures and getting your vitals taken at 3am! Or, well, sudden death. That's an option too.

Most people would actually find a 30 minute daily walk and a few more healthy home cooked meals to be quite a bit more comfortable than the scenario above.  Especially if they'd start with even 5 minutes of walking a few times a week and add one additional serving of veggies and gradually work up to greater, more impressive feats later as lifestyle change got even more comfortable. But sadly, these choices are not often offered with full disclosure in a timely manner. You may be signing up for that stroke or heart attack right this minute without even realizing it!  So you may need to be proactive and strategic about how to keep your comfort zone truly comfortable.

So What Does Online Yoga Have to Do With Comfort Zones?

I found the My Online Yoga classes to be an excellent way to enlarge my exercise comfort zone to new activities, while staying happily well inside it!

There are all kinds of classes and they add new ones all the time.  In addition to yoga, there is meditation, pilates, and other related stuff.  You can explore and find particular styles or instructors you like, and even try out things that you suspect might be WAY out of your comfort zone if you had to actually show up for a class and then decide whether to make a spectacle of yourself by leaving after three minutes if you are way over your head. In the privacy of your own home, you can be wildly experimental with no humiliating social repercussion.

Because the genius of an online class is: you can see them, but they can't see you!  You can make them go back over and over the same pose if you're struggling, you can skip things that don't appeal, you can make everyone stop what they're doing while you put another load of laundry in... just try that at your local studio and see how far you get.

If you have a laptop and put it on a box or something and go full screen, it really is kinda like having your own private class, except no one can point out that your form sucks.  This could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your desire for anonymity vs feedback. (I prefer, at this early stage, NOT to be told all the things I am doing wrong. And yes, I am a big fat baby.)

Plus, bonus: suddenly there's an ocean in your crappy basement!

Also, unlike an IRL class, you can take your yoga class with you when you travel.  Most yoga instructors, while flexible enough, might still object to being folded into a carry-on bag.

Full disclosure: there are other online yoga class websites too; I didn't compare them, as this one was comped and getting free stuff is one of my favorite things about health blogging.  But I can honestly say I was totally impressed by the instructors and classes I happened to try, and the price per month seemed quite reasonable, especially considering how much real-life classes tend to cost.

So the winner of last month's giveaway is:

Heather Lee!

But if you didn't win, and are also looking for fun easy ways to do new things from firmly within your comfort zone, you may want to check the My Yoga Online site and see what you think.

And yep, you may have noticed that I have spared you many more murky camera-phone NYC pictures that I was going to work into this theme. But be assured I did indeed take them and you will no doubt be subjected to them later, lucky readers!

So, what have you guys been up to lately and what are you hoping happens going forward? Are you a comfort-seeker or an embracer of all things uncomfortable?

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