I spent a half hour this morning changing the four toner cartridges in my color laser printer. The process required deciphering illustrations, some interpretation of verbal directions, physically reasoning out how things fit together, and not a small amount of patience. In other words, it was a lot like figuring out yoga or a sport: at first, hard to understand, but increasingly easier and easier to execute. I know the next time I do the task, it will be smoother still.
In my classes this week, I taught the Table Core sequence (available in The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga, now in bookstores everywhere!), which can be tough to learn. It looks easy—as does replacing one toner cartridge with another. But it’s actually pretty hard—as is fitting a used cartridge back into the package so it can be shipped off for recycling. By learning how to perform the task, though, we deduce ways to make it more efficient next time. These deductions can be mentally or physically reasoned; the physical process, a neuromuscular pathway being activated, may be very subtle. This is how we improve at sports, too: sometimes it’s a mental breakthrough, sometimes it’s a physical shift. These shifts don’t happen without our trying various approaches, though, so don’t be afraid to mess up. As long as you are paying attention and breathing, you can’t really fail.