Sport Series: yoga. Crow Pose.

Bakasana crow

I’ve recently amped up my yoga practice. Whereas Aubrey and Elliot are way advanced—and, therefore, it makes sense that they generally write this blog—I’m much less experienced. Even taking ownership of words like “yoga practice” makes me feel a little like a phony. I don’t feel like I can even do justice to basics like CHILD’S POSE and DOWNWARD DOG. My Chaturanga feels below par most of the time. I realize that’s why they call it a yoga practice—the idea is everyone is evolving through experience—but for the number of times I’ve done Virabhadrasana II WARRIOR TWO and Padahastasana GORILLA POSE, you’d think I’d feel confident in what I’m supposed to be finding in them—physically. I see my belly sticking out and my hips ill-aligned. I lose the breath all the time—and then, when we’re supposed to return to normal breathing, I can’t stop taking deep, long inhales. So often, everything feels very off. Sometimes I even think I reflect poorly on whoever I go to class with. But, all of that insecurity and uncertainty is the exact opposite of what I learn on my mat. So, why can’t I take the lessons with me?

I’ve been struggling with fear in my physicality for a long time. Riding my bicycle downtown or across Spear (I live in Capitol Hill) used to really scare me—I didn’t want to negotiate those streets or the people driving on them. Stairmasters used to scare me—I was afraid I would fall backward off of one. I had a friend who fell backwards down the stairs and the consequences were severe. I sometimes tell myself it’s just because I love my life so much. The more you love your life the more you’re afraid of things that might jeopardize it—that’s just logical to me. But, really, it’s just an excuse to validate unnecessary fear. It’s just fancy thinking. One does not have to be at all linked to the other. I continue to do these things that scare, but if I’m frightened, I can’t fully embrace the moment I’m in, can I? Fear sort of counteracts presence, right? If I’m afraid, it’s probably because I’m anticipating something, which means I’m not concentrating on the actual moment, but instead, thinking of what is to come. I do want to be in the present as much as possible.

Yoga has helped me to lift this fear. In truth, it’s helped quite a lot. The more strength I gain in little-used muscles, the more flexibility I have and the more times I challenge myself to concentrate into head stand or crow, the more I find myself present. And, I do fall down sometimes, which is okay. But, I’m never going to find Bakasana CROW without presence. It requires a person to let go (literally, lift up off the ground and steady), and it means trusting your body’s strength to do it safely. Likewise, Adho Mukha Mandukasana PRONE FROG, DOWNWARD FACING FROG—despite being totally grounded and not in any danger of breaking my neck—has helped me trust my body’s ability to distinguish between pain and discomfort. Spreading your legs and kissing the floor like that is ouchy. Elliot was telling me that one of his instructor-pals was asked or forced, depends how you look at it, to hold it for forty-five minutes (holding it for five minutes seems four minutes too long). That’s a marathon challenge in discovering this distinction, but it’s so important. If I trust myself, what do I have to fear? If I stay present, I can’t be afraid—even if fear is warranted.

The consequences I fear may or may not come, but if I allow myself to melt into the moment, I find that I don’t actually have space for fear.

****** 303 Magazine and CorePower Yoga are offering a month of free month of yoga to the person who needs it most. Tell us why you deserve, want and NEED that free month of yoga in the comments below. Also, VERY IMPORTANT, email zach@303magazine.com with you contact info for notification of your win. The contest will run for three weeks and then we will announce the winner. Good luck! *******

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