It’s very ‘un-yogi-like’ to say this but I suck at yoga. I’ve been practicing consistently for a couple of years now but if you were to watch me in class it would be safe to assume I had never tried to downward dog before in my life. I’m not flexible and while much of yoga encourages the body to open mine is built the opposite way. My runners body is always tight, my hips turn in rather than out and I carry all my stress in my upper back. My yoga is not pretty. Thankfully, I really don’t care.
I’ve found classes and instructors who encourage me to make the pose work for my body rather than fit my body into a pose that doesn’t work for me. I’ve learned to focus on breathing and staying calm through discomfort and while it’s not evidenced in a snapshot of me tipping over in airplane pose I can feel the effects in my everyday life whether it’s a stressful situation, a painful sports massage or pushing through the last few miles of a race. I breathe in. I breathe out. I stay focused.
Sometimes in class we transition into a pose that I found especially challenging and I’m tempted to skip it – maybe this is a good time to sip some water or chill out in Childs Pose – or maybe it’s an opportunity to make baby steps toward embracing the pose. This is the relationship I had with Crow Pose (Bakasana) for a long time. Arm balances require upper body strength, flexibility and focus – none of which are readily available to me never mind all at once. Plus, my long legs don’t ‘fit’ into the space they are supposed to in the classical pose. Still, Crow is a basic arm balance and it’s the least intimidating so I made it my 2013 yoga project.
In my 2012 RLAG recap I said “My goal for 2013 is 11 classes per month and to attempt crow, even for just a couple of seconds, every time it’s offered in class.” To be honest, I am definitely not averaging 11 classes per month but I have stuck to my Crow plan. Every time it’s been offered in a class I have given it a try even for a just a second or two. Sometimes I fall out immediately and give up and sometimes I try several times holding for a quick moment but last night it clicked. I am very proud to say that in last night’s class with Rebecca Pacheco (of omgal.com) I easily went up in crow and hung out there for about 4 breaths. I gently came out of the pose and almost laughed out loud I was so excited.
We moved on to another balance posture but I was so distracted by my excitement that I could barely hold the post at all. Eventually we moved into a few more difficult poses and I was back to my humble self, using blocks, towels, my water bottle and any other props I can grab to help me get into my version of the pose we are working on. Still, I found physical progress in my practice last night and I hope to carry this little victory with me to any challenge I come across whether it be in a yoga class, on a run or just in life. I breathe in. I breathe out. I stay focused.
This breakthrough could not have come at a better time. This weekend I’ll be running the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, NH – the first of two marathons this season. I feel prepared but anxious and definitely could use a little self-assurance. If I’m struggling on the course I will try and reclaim that feeling I had last night of calm and confidence while I balanced my body on my hands.
And then I’ll sing this: