25 May, 2012
(inspired by recent conversations and quiet musings)
It is so surreal
this space between things that I
must now fill with “home”
Which do we fear more,
the day we each must die, or
death, not having lived?
Dristi is focus
Breath searches for peace
17 May, 2012
I haven’t done a proper post in a while, not out of being too busy or too lazy or anything like that but because I’ve been thinking of what to actually write down. So much has happened in the last couple of months, on AND off the mat and I genuinely struggled with what to share. But now I feel the urge to write, so here goes, bear with me 😉
So, anyone who knows me or who’s seen my practice knows I’m by no means the most bendy girl in the world, and that’s OK with me, for the most part, what I love in daily practice is that I can keep working on the same movements and start to appreciate the little changes I see in my body and in my breath each day. I notice my knees almost completely on the floor in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose, demonstrated beautifully by yoga teacher Benita Hussain. I feel more grounded in my feet (at least, one at a time) in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose – demonstrated by yours truly), sometimes I almost get lost in the breath, the flow, the whole being of the practice…
That is, until I get to the postures of the Intermediate Series. Don’t let that word “intermediate” fool you, these postures are quite the gauntlet – the first third is a series of progressively deeper backbends; the second, a group of leg-behind-the-head postures; and a sequence of very challenging strength postures. I’ve only now arrived at the first leg of that journey and, mercy divine, there are days when I wonder if I can make it. And of all of these backbends, Kapotasana A (Pigeon Pose) is the most intimidating…no, I can flat-out say it, I’m frightened of this posture. I don’t know which element of the posture it is – the actual backbending, the dropping back, the opening of my ever-so-tight-and-currently-injured right shoulder or just the overall vulnerability that confront me every day on the mat. It was the last posture that Kino gave me when I went to study with her two months ago, right before my other really big challenge…the notorious Ashtanga dropbacks. So now my practice is at a point where all the really physically scary things happen at the end of practice, and starting off every day, I’m so aware of that and I know that I have to focus my mind and practice without attachment (don’t get too cushy with the poses I find easier, don’t freak out because you know Kapo is coming and you’re terrified). But then…
A few weeks ago, I had a significant shift occur in my everyday life, something that pained me all the greater because the events occurred outside of my control and I was helpless to stop it. On that day, I cried. I wept. I sobbed. And then, I took to the mat. More than ever, I needed the soothing familiarity and the sweet routine-ness of the practice to help me feel grounded and that I wasn’t going to lose myself in old patterns of behaviour, like running to hide. On that day I was determined to understand what was so frightening, what was that thing that made me feel as if I were spinning out of orbit. And on that day, I found it, in Kapotasana A. In this posture, I have to kneel on the floor (submit, if you will), open my chest (my heart), and stretch my arms back, parallel to the floor, before dropping back to the floor and walking my hands toward my feet. Normally, I try to rush this part, but in doing so, I noticed I was missing those precious moments of deep sensation where the back muscles fire up and really help to create that deep curve in the spine that I needed. But on that day, tears and all, I waited, I held on for five extra breaths (that felt like 50), and magically, I could start to see my feet. Amazing! Even more amazing, I could start to wriggle my hands on the ground toward my feet and just touch my toes on my own. Wow! So that was it! I stayed with the fear I was experiencing, I could identify it (“Oh God, there’s no safety net. I’m terrified I won’t be able to solve this. What’s going to happen now?”) and therefore begin to release the feelings and my attachment to them.
Then I got to dropbacks, and even more amazingly, I could inhale and reach up, exhale to the floor, inhale push into my thighs and heels and exhale back to standing, just like that, without my usual extra back-and-forth added momentum to come back up. Just like that, it was there. And it was there because I saw the fear and pushed through it anyway, on that day, a very dark day, I could see a tiny light.
Fast forward 23 days and i’m at a different place, things are still hard, but I have a solution in front of me and hope for a better “whatever comes my way”. On the mat today, I worked on Kapotasana A twice and I could actually see my heels and walk my hands in and touch the sides of my feet. I still have a way to go to grabbing my heels (have you SEEN the size of my feet? LOL), but somehow I think I might already understand the lesson this asana is meant to teach me. And that lesson is “Acknowledge what you’re afraid of. Know that the fear of a thing is almost always greater than the thing itself. And, don’t ever give up, no matter how long it takes”. Kino says “…dirga kala” (a long time) and she’s right, this is a journey of courage, of facing your deepest and most-quietly-lurking fears and coming out alive, wiser and more at peace on the other side.
For that and many other reasons, I’m incredibly humbled by and grateful for this thing called Ashtanga Vinyasa and that I can get on the mat each day and try my best, and even more thankful that I can, in some small way, share that path with others.