4 Yogi Lessons I Learned From My Not-So-Yogi Dad

Amy Leonard
4 Yogi Lessons I Learned From My Not-So-Yogi Dad

I always tell Joseph, the love of my life, that he is the second smartest man I’ve ever met, second only to the first man I ever loved, my Dad. When I was a little girl, I remember lighting up when I would see my dad, a retired Air Force colonel, arrive to pick me up at school, dressed in his Air Force uniform looking as if he were strong enough to take on the world, but for the time being, would use his strength to throw me on his back and take me home. While my dad would prefer to spend his afternoons on the golf course than in a yoga studio (in fact, I don’t think my dad has ever stepped foot inside a yoga studio), he taught me a number of lessons growing up that have snuck their way into my practice of yoga.

1) Be On Time

There are very few things that throw me off more during my yoga practice than when a fellow yoga student waltzes into class 15 minutes late and throws their mat down uncomfortably close to mine. Certainty, there are legitimate reasons to be late sometimes, we’ve all had them, but smacking your snooze button for an extra bit of sleep and then strolling into class nearly halfway through usually isn’t appreciated by your fellow classmates or your teacher. Perhaps it was his time spent in the military, or possibly his upbringing, but my father has never been late a day in his life (or if he has, he certainly hasn’t told me about it). When I was a little girl, I remember being baffled by the fact that when a sleepover invitation indicated that parents were to retrieve their children at 10:30 a.m., my dad would be there at 10:30 on the dot, not a moment before, not a moment after (he probably sat in his car until the clock hit 10:30 to avoid any complaining about him being early and depriving me of any extra moments at the slumber party). Timeliness has been so deeply instilled in me that I get a little panicky if I’m not set to arrive somewhere at least ten minutes early. But try using the excuse, “Better late than never,” with Dad. You’ll get a quick, “Better get your butt out of the house earlier.” But all we can do is try.

2) Do It Right, Or Not At All

As I mentioned before, my dad is an avid golfer (and he’s pretty darn good too). When I was about fifteen, I fell in love with golf. Not the game…the outfit. There was a sport that would let me wear a pink shirt, a skirt, some cute sporty shoes AND a hat? I was in. There are only so many sports where you can wear a skirt and have it be socially acceptable. After convincing my dad to take me to the driving range to show me the ropes (I mean, how hard could it be to swing a metal pole at a little ball?) I quickly retired from the game of golf. While I found it easy enough to swing the golf club around (doing significant damage to the green), my dad insisted that if I wanted to learn how to play golf, I had to learn to do it right. This lesson has proved equally important in my yoga practice, as I’ve discovered how essential honoring the correct technique of many poses is. While cheating and taking the easy route often seems tempting, failing to master the basics can detract from many of the benefits of yoga, and as has been stressed by each instructor that I’ve had – can be dangerous. While understanding the basics may sometimes feel frustrating and like it’s taking the long way, I’ve come to understand that sometimes the long way is the best way if I really want to learn and get everything out of my practice that I can.

3) You’re Just As Good/Strong/Smart As The Best/Strongest/Smartest Person In The room

This past spring, I received an invitation to interview for my dream doctoral program in School Psychology. My immediate reaction was excitement, immediately followed by terror. “They only accept a handful of people,” I quickly rambled to my dad on the phone, “The other people I’m interviewing with have had years of experience, they probably have ten thousand times more to offer than I do, what are they thinking, inviting me to interview? I’ll never get in!” My dad took a breath and simply responded, “You’re just as strong a candidate as anyone else in the room.” It was that simple to him, and he didn’t seem at all surprised when I called him a week later, completely baffled but over-the-moon, that I had been invited to join the program.

Have you ever stood back and watched your yoga instructor move into a position, as you silently said to yourself, “Never gonna happen”? Well that silent little voice can be LOUD when it’s telling you that you can’t do something. Take it from Dad, you only can’t if you think you can’t. Sure, we’re not all going to effortlessly float into a headstand just because we think we can, but letting go of “can’t” is the essential first step, and sometimes the hardest one to take. Just keep in mind: You’re just as strong as the strongest person in the room.

4) Change And Challenges Lead To Growth

Growing up as a military brat, we moved around a fair amount during my younger years. While I cried and mourned the loss of friends, my homes, etc., my dad always encouraged me to be brave in the face of change. No one likes being the new kid, but it certainly builds character. The same thing is true of the other challenges in our lives, from tricky yoga poses to career moves to the ups and downs of personal relationships. Change and challenges force us to see what we’re capable of. Sure, you might fall flat on your butt a time or two, but sometimes it’s as simple as laughing it off and trying again. Change isn’t always easy, but of course, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Accepting the challenges of being the “new kid” led me to meeting some wonderful friends. When I was five, I marched down the road of my cul-de-sac in San Antonio, Texas, knocked on the door of the Anthony household, and announced to my future partner-in-crime’s father that, “I saw you have a daughter my age. I’m here to her best friend.” And so we were. Erin Anthony became my first best friend, and I’m lucky to call her a friend to this day, even though we live thousands of miles apart. Dad was right; change and challenges make you brave, they give you character, and they show you what you can do – even if you had no idea it was in you. Next time you’re presented with a challenge, remind yourself that you’re brave enough to take it on. And if you stumble, or even get bruised up a little (I slammed into the wall this morning attempting to do a headstand…again), those bruises build character. Don’t worry; you’ll get there.