“Challenge yourself!” I told myself with determination when, yet again, I wanted to skip the “reclined hero pose” – Supta Vajrasana in Sanskrit. This particular yoga pose is my personal Mount Everest. The exercise involves starting from a kneeling position where you sit on the heels and lean over backwards until your back is on the ground and your arms are next to you. The legs remain in the same position the entire time. It’s extremely uncomfortable and I have not yet succeeded in leaning over backwards all the way. I used to skip the pose whenever possible.

A while back, when I was again in a rather warm yoga studio and had already decided in my mind to skip the pose, the yoga teacher happened to say that she noticed that certain people consistently skipped certain poses. Unsurprisingly, I felt as if the words were directed at me personally. At that moment, I decided to challenge myself more and practise the Supta Vajrasana more frequently, because I realised I would never make progress if I continued skipping the pose.

We often avoid experiences that are unpleasant to us. Usually, however, those are the very experiences that we need in the sense that they are the ones from which we can learn the most. Take conflicts, for example. While it’s often easier to avoid them, it’s facing them and dealing with them that makes us stronger. There is indeed some merit to the notion of leaving one’s comfort zone. After all, things that are nice and easy to us are exactly that: nice and easy. They allow us to remain in the same familiar and safe place. Overcoming something that is unpleasant and challenging, on the other hand, requires and fosters personal growth.

The same applies to studying. Until recently, for example, I tended to repeat things that I already knew, something referred to as cognitive ease. A sense of cognitive ease makes us feel good because it allows us to feel that we understand every facet of our respective fields and therefore gives us confidence; it allows us to feel right and certain about things. It is precisely the subjects that are difficult and often less familiar, however, that require the most attention. It is in dealing with these particular subjects that the greatest gains are achieved. It is in any case useful to know something about them, since they also feature in the exams.

Everyone has a Mount Everest. The important thing is to face the mountain head on. The Supta Vajrasana is getting better, for that matter.

Pooja Guptar (25) does a Master Media & Business