Embrace the Suck

To be free, you must have fire

Embrace the Suck

Triathletes know the feeling of “rubber legs.” It’s the feeling you get when you start running after a hard bike effort. You feel like your legs don’t belong to you, yet you’re making them run. It’s actually comical looking at some triathletes unprepared for the run.

The preparation is rather difficult because you have to put your legs through that transition several times in practice. You practice the uncomfortable so you can mentally manage it. Triathletes calling it “embracing the suck.”

The first time you do this in training, you cannot fathom being able to run a good distance like this. You might even quit because it’s just that mentally difficult.

With practice, you acknowledge the wobbly legs. You notice the moment when your running legs come back. You embrace the suck, knowing that it’s only temporary. The reward comes later.

One of the observances in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is called tapas, which is Sanskrit for “heat.” It’s the inner fire necessary for transformation. Without tapas, we remain unmotivated or complacent.

Oftentimes we want bypass the hard steps without adopting certain observances and restraints. Avoiding the discipline yet seeking reward will taint the reward or make it elusive. It’s like cheating for an exam—we don’t learn from what we choose to bypass.

We must give up behaviors or attachments that keep us bound, and that’s often difficult. We don’t want to embrace the suck because we’re too comfortable.

In his book, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman writes that tapas helps us rewrite old patterns. We welcome the challenge rather than run from it, knowing that it strengthens us with practice.

Bachman suggests for us to practice with small changes first before we take on the larger patterns and attachments. In this way, we notice how our mind reacts to change but trust that this change will eventually bear fruit.

This makes us more likely to embrace the suck rather than run from it. Bachman writes, “If we are aware that the discomfort is good for us, it becomes a desirable effect and may encourage our continued practice.”

In practicing tapas, we also have to be careful not to push things too far. Tapas can also destroy if we’re not aware of each moment. Yoga also teaches us to refrain from harm, and that includes refraining from harming ourselves.