By Iveto (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bakasana Crow

I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself lately. Relentless pressure at work to meet every demand, have all the answers when asked, to present the most innovative ideas, basically to do it right the first time. Bulldozing myself in my personal relationships to share my decisions immediately, before I’ve actually arrived at the answers, I’ve realized. Putting weight on myself to make the best, most compassionate, most reasonable, logical, thoughtful decision at every turn when people I care about are involved. Pressure to be patient with any person I encounter, respond without reaction. Bullying myself to make better financial decisions (since grad school, admittedly, not my strongest arena). Pressure to make only healthy dinners for myself every night—and considering that I am not a stress eater, very much the opposite, in fact, eating anything at all when I am this strained is out of the question. Pressure to go to bed at a decent hour so that I can wake up super early to do cardio before work and pressure to do cardio in the evening if I didn’t drag my ass out of bed at 5:50 in the a.m. I’ve been insisting that I keep my bedroom tidy, iron clothes to wear every day, dress for the job I want, not the job I have. Forcing myself to take time to relax, pressure to dial up my friends and family more often, coercing myself to write more, write sooner, write better, pressure to not show or even allow anxiety to take hold and manifest within me.

This is a lot of pressure to heap on one person. And I’m the one responsible for the pile.

A good friend helped me last Friday (and she got the shout out last week in my blog, so I shan’t name names this time, wink, wink) to arrive at the reason for this. I am, clearly, focusing on what I should do rather than what I can do. These are wise words. I know what they mean. And I know what to do. But can I?

Today in yoga, I found a quiet Ujjayi breath and focused on what I could do. I let my mind go blank; I didn’t set an intention at the beginning of class about what I should do, what would be best for me to focus on?, where do I need to direct my energy and center my third eye intuition? I let the weight drift away so quickly, almost as soon as I touched down on my mat, that I felt more inclined to move with intention rather than set an intention. Maybe moving with intention was my intention? I allowed my mind to drift so much that two times I completely stopped listening to the instructor’s prompts and moved into poses that weren’t being cued. I honestly didn’t know I was doing something different till I snapped out of the fog and saw I looked different than everyone else. I smiled at myself, but kept rolling right along, letting my body be the guide. Everyone else was sitting down into Utkatasana CHAIR POSE, stimulating the heart and diaphragm, after rising from standing back bend, and I was diving into Uttanasana STANDING FORWARD FOLD and lifting half way. The rest of the class was moving into Adho Mukha Svanasana DOWNDOG for three community breaths, a pose that calms stress and energizes the body all at the same time, but I don’t actually know what I was doing at that time. My mind and body seemed to fully pause; it was so quiet, no chatter, no shoulda, coulda, woulda. All I know is that I was not in DOWNWARD FACING DOG with everyone else when I opened my eyes and joined the world around me.

Could focus on what you can do rather than what you should do be what allowed me to glide into Bakasana CROW, feeling like my arms were straighter and, thus, stronger than ever before, shifting my weight forward and up slowly and gently, inhaling to lift my right foot into the air, followed by my left, to softly touch my toes together, engaging my abs to pull my legs higher, and my head and chin and heart tilted just enough to set my gaze lightly in front of my fingers, steady, steady, steady in body and mind, no worries about a face plant or what I should do for the rest of the night once class was over?