I’m not really sure how to begin this post, except to say: these ideas that you have about what you can and can’t do, the things that are too hard or to big to begin – often these ideas are formed in a time of perceived failure. We don’t think to ourselves Oh, right, maybe I am not ready to do that yet, or maybe if I try that a different way it will work, or maybe I need some help to do that, or even let’s sleep on that and try again tomorrow.
No. We are not so forgiving of failure in our magnificent selves. Instead we think things like Oh crap, I can’t do that, it’s too hard, what was I thinking? I am not strong enough, clever enough, creative enough, disciplined enough, anything enough to do that very difficult thing – and I probably never will be.
I say ‘you’ and ‘we’, but really I mean ‘I’ and ‘me’. All my life I have been telling myself these kind of things, and believing them too. No, I can’t do that, No, I don’t like that, No, I’m no good at that. No, no, no. Yes, I am a stubborn bull who says No a lot. An awful lot.
I’ve had a few experiences in the last six months where I have had opportunities to challenge myself to do things that I have always wanted to do. Opportunities have arisen to say yes instead of no and I have taken them. Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while know that I had an opportunity to be a beta reader for Kara-Leah Grant’s book 40 Days of Yoga, which in turn inspired me to do my own 40 days of yoga. Which I did, and as a result of that, I have my own daily yoga practice, something I have wanted for years. I had an opportunity to go to a writer’s group a month ago, which inspired me to start 40 days of writing. I’m on day 26 now, and I have written over 13000 words.
It’s funny though – it wasn’t really these events that woke me up to what was going on; what the 40 day process did is open my eyes to the internal dialogue and self-defeating process that goes on inside of me when I do new or challenging things. So, I’ll tell you a little story, a yoga story if you will.
So I am doing yoga at home most days, but something is bothering me. There is something missing from my practice, and I know damn well what it is – there are no inversions in my sequences. No headstand, no shoulder stand. I know how important they are – they are the king and queen of asanas, and for good reasons too. I have very good reasons why I don’t do them - Oh, I can’t do these poses because I need specific, expensive props that I can’t possibly justify right now, because I am not strong/brave enough and I don’t really want to/need to do these inverted poses.
Still, I am nagged by the thought that I want to do headstand, I need to do it - how can I do it? I read this article on preparatory poses for headstand, and I think to myself ok, I’ll have a go. I talk to my mother about my desire to do headstand and she says Oh I have this pad that I found very helpful when I was younger and wanting to do headstand – do you want it? Yes I do – anything that will help. The next day, with the help of a chair to put my foot on, and a little foam pad I am up in head stand! Yippee! I love headstand! I feel so strong and brave!
I see Gretchen, a friend of mine who is a second generation yoga teacher at a BBQ lunch on the weekend. I tell her about my success with headstand, and she says to me Great! I hope you are doing shoulder stand to balance the headstand. Oh crap. Shh! I don’t like shoulder stand I say. It makes me feel fat and weak I say. I need one of those special shoulder stand chairs like we have in class I say. Gretchen laughs and says I need to do it, because the feminine shoulder stand is needed to balance the masculine head stand. I know this, but…
Anyway, I go home thinking about it; more and more I am on to myself, and more and more I am sick of the same old crap that my brain tells me. So I think to myself - there are probably other ways of doing a supported shoulder stand other than in a chair. I’ll google it.
Right I think, I can do that.
So I do this supported pose for a couple of days, lifting one leg off the wall at a time. I think to myself Yes, I can do this, and it’s ok, although I can’t imagine being able to do it properly.
The next day I lift first one leg away from the wall, and then the other, like I have been doing. I felt strong, so on the spur of the moment I took both legs away from the wall – and went into the straightest, strongest shoulder stand I have ever done. I held it for 30 seconds or so, came down and just lay there for a moment. And thought to myself I can do anything I want to – I just have to start from a place that I feel comfortable in, and go from there.
How good is yoga?