Thursday, July 9, 2009

Exhale.

"The earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road."--Isak Dinesen

Okay, maybe just me: whenever I open a yoga magazine or go to a new class or google for information, I see people upside-downing their asses off. Every girlfriend and fellow yogini I know bats her eyes and says, "oh no, I don't have any trouble at all." It would appear I'm the only one who struggles, and all else can just pop up with such ease that they could solve crossword puzzles while they're at it. Well, sod them. Inversions are like some great mystery to me, despite my best intentions. My shoulderstand is wobbly and rarely as straight as it can be, I very rarely can get my feet on the floor in plough, and headstand and is just terrifying. Typically when the concept of inversions comes up in class, I feel a tightening in my belly and a voice in my neck that says "ooh, you shouldn't try that, you'll break your neck and die." I do all the prep the instructor gives and I get pretty close, but then my hips are supposed to be all up in the air, and it's as if the failsafe switch inside my body suddenly turns my hips to lead, and I hear the voice again, "Nope, don't do that, you'll break your neck and die, I told you."
I've been practicing yoga for a while now. I got my first mat in high school, and really got into yoga in college as a means of dealing with stress. My practice had a rebirth in 2006 and I haven't looked back since. I read about yoga, I think about what I'm doing in life and how yoga can help, I'm thoughtful, I'm careful and I'm intuitive. So why can't I turn my body upside down?
Because I'm also impatient, frightened and easily frustrated.

So here's what my yoga practice taught me today:
Compassion--yes, I have been practicing for a while, but everything takes the time it takes. Yoga, like marriage, is a marathon, not a sprint. Much as I'd like to have certain poses down pat, or at least comfortable enough that I can practice without dissolving into giggles, pants or the blues, I can't. Sometimes I just have to go slow and forgive myself for not having the body I want to have. A beloved yoga teacher says, and my sweetheart often reminds me, to "practice with the body you have today." I blow raspberries at him, but it's often the most useful thing to say. I learned to forgive myself for not being strong enough to pull my hips up with my abs, or strong enough in my shoulders to support my body weight.
Patience--While practicing today I sailed through the air kicking up into adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) and even managed to hang in the air a short while before landing on the mat. It was exhilirating- and scary. And so maybe that's my expression today. Maybe both heels aren't on the wall until I've built the upper body strength and gotten accustomed to the headrush of my head so far below my hips. Maybe prepping in a safe, healthy way is enough. Maybe three years isn't enough time: it might take six, or even twelve. Maybe I can slow down and be grateful for the thing that happened now and the practice that is mine today.
Timing--Yesterday bemoaning the distance between me and inversions, I wrote that I felt like my body was blocking me from something, like I was locked out of an ability which ought to be open. Today on the mat, I heard the Still Small Voice say, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock..." How peaceful it felt to remember Christ tapping at the door of my life, hoping for more time. I'm more of a three times on the doorbell, police-fisted knock, text to say I'm outside, peek in the window type. This is the approach I've been taking with my inversion practice, and it will not let me in. So maybe I just siddle up slowly and tap. Just ask nicely; and when the blocks in my body are broken, when the walls inside me have fallen, I'll just float on up there and that'll be the body I have today.

There aren't a lot of places in life where we can extend to ourselves this kind of grace and love, grace and love that most definitely don't come from within, but from on high. Praise God for reminding us that our lives are in process, that His hands are always busy and His greatest tool is time.

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