What’s Your Default?

“In order to live a life you have not lived, you must do what you have not done.”

When my yoga teacher started yesterday’s class with this quote, I knew I was in for a journey. As we flowed from side plank to chaturanga push-ups to Warrior 3 and back again, the instructor-cum-guru kept reiterating her point. “Be mindful of your ‘default mode’ in this pose,” she said. “Observe how you arrive in this position, and challenge it.”

When the 90-degree hour was up, my teacher encouraged us to push our default modes off the mat, as well. For once, I was ahead of the game. In between inhales and exhales (through the nose, always), I’d been contemplating my own knee-jerk responses to everything from standing split to social scenarios. In truth, my teacher’s words couldn’t have come at a better time: The stress of the past several weeks has my anxiety at a fever pitch, with its effect on my emotions and behavior even more prevalent. In the past few days alone, there were moments of when I was so stuck in the anxiety undertow that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to swim to the surface. I finally made it out, only to be crushed by a tidal wave of humiliation, guilt, and sadness.

Bad ocean metaphors aside, it’s important to take time to evaluate our default modes, and how shifting those behaviors might improve our experiences. As my yoga teacher said, it’s only by doing what we have not done that we unlock new potential. For me, this means being more proactive about addressing my anxiety, and testing out forms of aid that I wasn’t open to/responsible about before. Editing our habitual approaches to anything from a yoga pose to a long commute is a long term process— but then again, so are most things that matter.

Now it’s your turn: What are your default modes? How might changing them upgrade your reality?


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