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Feb 13

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Being brilliant, while brushing

“Every morning, while I’m brushing my teeth, I think up tricky questions for myself”. So says Elouise, one of our Oxbridge Interview Success students.

Having developed a taste for delicious questions like ‘Is music a language?’, ‘How would the world be if ice didn’t float?’ and ‘Is torture ever morally justifiable?’, our students are encouraged to keep practising. And practising. With each other, with their teachers, and in the bathroom mirror.

Elouise’s tactics reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a massage therapist last autumn.

While he inflicts a world of pain on my exhausted body, I ask how I could maintain my physical resilience during the busiest times of the year.

Rather than attempting to sign me up to a year-long treatment programme, or sell me some magic potion, Mr Complementary Therapy says the best thing would be to do five minutes of yoga every day. “It’s the things we do every day that make the difference”.

The stroppy teenage part of me rolls her eyes. Of course I know yoga is good for my body. And of course I know that if my body is in good shape, my brain works better and my business benefits. Of course I feel great when I make it to a class. But quite often it’s all too much effort, especially when I’m busy.

And then the penny drops. It’s not necessarily making it to the class each week that brings the greatest benefits. It’s doing some yoga, even just five minutes, every day. It’s Elouise pondering something clever while brushing her teeth. And that’s easy.

Relatively easy. Sometimes I have to talk myself out of watching Masterchef in favour of setting out my mat. I bought myself some new leggings by way of sartorial encouragement. Classes are attended more regularly, and are even more enjoyable as my five-minutes-per-day practice has generated great progress on my ability to bend myself in half. The hump of inertia has been conquered, and yoga has become a habit.

Just as Elouise is unable to brush her teeth without pondering some form of brain stretching, I feel periodically feel compelled to roll out my yoga mat and do a double pigeon. Now, five minutes doesn’t seem like enough.

Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

The question I am asking myself more often is, “What little thing can I do everyday that will make things better?”.

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