Making things happen.

An ode to Senior Sarge, Jason Moriarty, of Rebel Boot Camp, and those who go for yoga therapy at Manasa Yoga.

“Mental strength before physical fitness,” Senior Sergeant Jason Moriarty of Rebel Boot Camp used to say to me (and all new recruits). For a few months, I never put much thought about that, but an awareness grew over time.

I noticed that people who gave up easily never got the fitness they sought, and left somewhat disappointed. Then, during the course of my career in fitness, I have witnessed the same, whether in boot camp, personal training or yoga. When the mind isn’t ready or strong, good things rarely are received.

Obviously, a strong mind is a positive mind. Someone who is negative from the get-go will be someone who is unlikely to see any results. “This sucks!”, “The ground is wet”, “We should have music”, “This is too hard”, “I can’t do this”, “You suck!”, “My hands will get dirty” etc. Is it surprising that success is out of reach?

Unsurprisingly, the negativity causes them to stop sessions. Some will blame the weather, their work, their children, their lack of time etc. But at the end of the day, it’s their negativity that stunts their development.

Our job as trainers is to motivate them, flip negativity to positivity, help them enjoy the sessions and all this will bring them closer to their goals. Executing this might be challenging but watching the mind shift and physical changes are part of the rewards of the job. Along the way, if they turn everything in their life to positivity, that’s even more rewarding.

On the other hand, those who come to sessions positive from the start usually achieve their fitness goals. Of course, everyone has his or her grumpy days, but watching them lose kilo after kilo usually comes with seeing them become more and more positive and vice-versa. Brighter people. Shinier Malaysians.

I decided to test this out on myself. I hate mathematics. But because of my work, I find myself having to deal with my old nemesis pi, radius and diameter. Good old trigonometry. I sat down in front of the computer, doing searches and trying to understand the formulae (yes, I am quite useless in math) but after five days, I managed to get everything tucked neatly into my brain. I was positive, open and receptive and pi came to me! I look at mathematics (and science) very differently now.

So on to mental strength. We all know what makes the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is their mental strength. And this is the same in daily life. If one is positive and focused, at the very least, one would have learned or experienced something.

Yet, I know people who had huge dreams but never pursued them because “it’s not possible” or “I’m too old for that” or “what about the children” or “what about the mortgage” or “I’m too fat” or “I’m too thin” or “I like food”. Whether these dreams are career-related or health-related, the possibilities stop existing merely because it was nipped in the bud by none other than themselves. Sometimes, I wonder how many dreams, ambitions and lives are never realised because of this.

So positivity leads to mental strength, and mental strength leads to a host of goodness, including good health and physical fitness. It sounds trite, almost like a multi-level marketing cliché, but the thing is – it’s true.

On Thursdays, when I go for yoga classes myself, the class immediately after mine is a therapy class for those having suffered a stroke or who are living with Parkinson’s disease or other mobility conditions. When we are about to lie down for savasana (or yogic relaxation), we can hear them laughing and talking to each other. And during class, you can see they are focused on getting their leg to move or their hand to stop shaking.

When I watch these people, I sometimes find myself holding my breath. They are to me what positivity and mental strength is all about.

Originally published in the Sun newspaper: