“…a wonderful source of voluntary discomfort”

The title of this post comes from a quote from William Irvine’s Guide to the Good Life. In his discussion of the things Stoics should do he covers the idea the Roman Stoics had about personal discomfort.  They believed you should periodically do uncomfortable things so you not only realize how good you have it but also so that when you really do have to endure discomforts you are toughened up a bit.  For example they would go without their sandals for a day or not dress correctly for the weather.  They might even sleep out on the ground for a night or two.  That kind of thing.

It’s harder to get away with that as a modern Stoic though.  That’s where Irvine comes in with exercise as the modern equivalent.  I cracked up when he dryly says, “Yoga is a wonderful source of voluntary discomfort.”  But it really is!  Yoga is perfect because Stoics are forever thinking about the future and imaging bad things that can happen and even contemplating their own mortality.  So yoga (or Tai’Chi or any similar exercise) is something that causes immediate discomfort but leads to long term gains and is something that you can pretty much do for the rest of your life.  Of course what do I know?  I’ve only been doing yoga regularly for about three days.  Talk to me again in a year or so and see if I’ve kept up with it.

But yeah, I got a lot out of the book and am actually working on the practice of Stoicism (and now yoga).  The problem with an exercise program is that I’m cheap and don’t like to pay for things (especially things that cause discomfort!) so getting into a long term exercise program I know little about makes me think I’ll get hosed financially.  I’m lucky in that I found a good free introduction here and have found some other relatively inexpensive online options.  I don’t think I’m the type to take a face to face class but you never know.  I’ll have to get more than three days into it before I make any big decisions.

We went down to Florida for a family visit on the beach and my mom started reading the Irvine book since she’d forgotten to bring hers.  I hope she gets a lot out of it as well because she’s been very stressed lately.  She seemed to be enjoying it when we were there and reported that she got herself a copy when she got home.

So reading, beach fun and now yoga pretzel twists.  That’s my summer so far.  How is yours going?

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