While I hadn’t previously participated in a yoga mala—a practice of 108 sun salutations, in this case to celebrate the solstice—I found it was a very familiar endurance experience. I felt great once we got up to speed, rhythmically repeating the pattern of asana (inhale, up; exhale, down . . . ); I rationed my energy, particularly in the third set; I repeatedly returned to form and breath; I kept up my electrolytes; I joyfully opened the throttle in the fourth and final set, abandoning the modifications I’d implemented in the first three rounds of 27, moving deeply into the poses, closing my eyes to see how it felt on the inside. (OK, I don’t do that last bit in a race!) I happily sunk into savasana at the end, briefly noticing that it felt like lying on the grass in the sunshine after a well-run race.
The one thing that felt less familiar was my mood at the beginning of the practice: open, receptive, eager to begin. Is the trick to bring that calm self-confidence to the starting line? Maybe. I had glimpses of it walking to my corral in Boston and wet-suiting up in Vancouver. But at both events, I was slightly uncertain about the new experience. Maybe it’s good to bring that edge to the self-confidence. A little apprehension is a good thing for both psychological and physiological arousal, and therefore for peak performance. Why begin if the outcome is a given? What is to be discovered in perfect execution? Doesn’t the growth come from the messiness, pushing a little too hard, recovering from mistakes and continuing forward?