09 January, 2013

Yoga teaches us to never say never

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

And it was also the first time that I've ever rested comfortably and deeply in Virasana, or Hero's Pose. This is a pose where you crouch on your knees with your feet and calves folded under you, the tops of your feet on the floor, and sit all the way down. It's intentionally a compression of the lower leg, and it requires a degree of flexibility in both the knees and quadriceps, as well as the feet and ankles. For a year and a half, I have not done this pose fully, and usually not at all. It hurt my right knee so much to compress onto it, that I had even made the proclamation to myself and others that this was just a pose that I was "never" going to be able to do. For those of you who are not yogis, I should back up and make it clear that this is not an advanced pose. It's not challenging, nor strenuous. In fact, it is supposed to be an incredibly restful, meditative posture. But until now, it was a pose that was not available to me because of the physiology of my body.

A few months ago, I think in Elizabeth McElveen's class, we were told to sit in Virasana, or to put a block under us if the position was not possible otherwise. And we spent a long time sitting in the pose. What I discovered, much to my surprise, was that it became a little less unbearable to be in the position the longer I spent in it. This made me curious. I started to want to take this position, on the block, every time we are asked to sit. Rather than sitting cross-legged, I choose this one now. And it keeps feeling more and more available. And when I sit in the pose at the start and end of a class, I can always notice a big difference at the end of a class. So today, I felt more loose than I'd felt perhaps ever before, and decided at the end of class to try Virasana without the block (at the start of class, an attempt without the block was still too tender). But sure enough, there it was. I'm in the pose. That which my body had not been able to do it is now able to do. There's no doubt about it. It's not subtle.

There are really two lessons here. One is that it's really important to listen to my body when it's telling me that I can't yet do a pose. And to not get angry, or sad, or impatient, or force it. But the other lesson is to not run away from it permanently, because what wasn't available a year ago may now be available. There were just other things I needed to focus on first, and I am not even really sure what those were. Only that the progress has been made that enabled this tangible milestone.

Lesson three (I know I said there were two lessons) is that we should never say "never." Or, alternatively, we should listen to ourselves when we are saying "never," and make a mental note to keep exploring all those nevers, and seeing if we can't surprise ourselves.

I am sure it's a little amusing to fellow yogis to hear someone get so excited about Hero's Pose.

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