Sitting in my yoga class this morning, I hear the same cue that I have heard hundreds of times since I began practicing yoga: Push your hips back into downward facing dog as you exhale. A few minutes later, the teacher guides us into child’s pose with our hips back towards our heels and our arms stretched towards the front of our mats.
“Yoga is a practice not a perfect and each day is different,” she explains, “challenge yourself in your poses and come into child’s pose when you need it.” I had heard this many times before, only today, I translated it to, “Life is a practice not a perfect and each day is different. Challenge yourself in your life and lovingly rest when you need.”
When I first began regularly practicing yoga five years ago, I wanted to give up. It was a struggle to hold my arms up in Warrior II. I would stretch my right arm forward and left arm towards the back of the mat, and it seemed that my arms were improbably heavy - as if I was carrying 20lb dumbbells in each hand.
I made it through the three months of yoga initiation and then started to reach the honeymoon phase. The poses felt easier and I started to catch onto breathing through each pose rather than holding my breath until my face turned red. What a difference! I started to feel like I was floating in this beautiful dance and the world felt wide open. “At this rate,” I thought, “I will be doing headstands by the New Year!”
Before the New Year came, my right shoulder started to hurt. I was hooked to yoga by then and decided to push through it and try to ignore my shoulder pain. I started to grimace in any pose that had me on my shoulders. I didn’t think to ask for help.
I finally asked a teacher in class after several months. He informed me that when I was moving from plank position to chataraunga, I needed to hinge forward half an inch. By not hinging forward half an inch, it was putting unduly stress on my shoulders. He recommended that I go back to putting my knees on the ground until I was strong enough. “Half an inch?! That’s it?” I thought I was copying what all the advanced yogis were doing. It turned out that my desire to keep up with the advanced practitioners and blend in was hurting me. I needed to go back to the fundamentals again. My floating wings were gone. I had come down for a not so graceful landing.
Back to basics. Back to basics. Back to basics.
Yoga has become my metaphor for living a soulful life. In times of growth and learning (which is continually occurring), I tend to go through phases:
1. First wanting to give up on the whole thing and avoid it
2. Second, going through the tunnel and facing the challenge
3. Then reaching a euphoric platform where I feel monumental success and think I can do anything
4. Then a period of challenge where I must reevaluate, recommit, and often ask for assistance
5. Finally, I come back to the basics of what I began with a deeper level of grounded commitment
6. I find a new level of gratitude, joy, and appreciation for the practice and the experience
I am a yoga practitioner and a soulful living practitioner. Both take continual practice and recommitment. Whenever I have doubt, I come back to the basics of yoga and the basics of life. What are the core poses and practices of yoga? What are the core values and practices in my life?
Something to reflect on: What are the core values in your life and how are you embodying and practicing them?