While here in Mysore I’m doing two yoga classes a day. The morning practice is at least 2hrs of Mysore style Ashtanga. This is a strong practice that follows a set sequence that is very much the same day in, day out. It’s done independently with everyone in the room moving in time with their own breath. The only thing that changes each day is how I approach it.
In the afternoon I attend a flexibility and back bending class. This is 1hr 45mins and also follows a set sequence for a while; then individual postures are given. This is a class I felt really drawn to, it’s an area I know I have lots of potential for growth. In each class I’m taken to my physical limit, to that point of discomfort where you don’t know how much more you can take.
Every time I step onto the mat here I’m confronted with the same challenges, the poses where I feel seemingly stuck. There is no escaping these postures, they are there waiting for me each and every class but I have a choice – to truly work on them, or to avoid it just brushing over the surface.
I came here to work, to break though some of those physical and mental blocks so most days, unless I’m flat out exhausted, I do the work.
It’s the same things I face repeatedly – lack of confidence, doubt and trust.
What translates on the mat reflects in life #truth
As I began really contemplating this today I started to see the link to injuries and relationships – yes yoga links to pretty much everything if you think deeply enough on it.
I had lots of confidence in my wrists; I was fearless throwing my weight into them however I pleased… until I hurt them. Similarly, I was totally open to love, fearless, until I got hurt a couple of times…
Then after hurt comes fear, what if I get hurt again?
Through my practice I’ve come to see lots of irrational fear and protection over my wrist, things I’ve been avoiding in case I hurt it again. All this does is further solidify the fear, causing stagnation and a slowing of growth into full potential. Has this pattern of hurt followed by fear translated into my life off the mat…to relationships…even if only unconsciously? While it’s hard to admit, I think the answer would have to be a yes.
So how to we overcome this?
My strategy has been to use my body as a vehicle and the yoga practice as a tool.
Rather than going for practices that I typically do at home, those that play to my strengths, I seek out practices that really challenge me. Each day here I put myself in a position where I have the opportunity to work on areas that I feel could be strengthened.
The arm balance transitions during the ashtanga practice teach me to again trust my wrists, to have faith that I won’t hurt them again, to adapt where required and to move mindfully. Handstands in the middle of a full room teach me to have confidence in my ability outside of my house (it’s silly but I have no trouble with this at home but really struggle when I step outside). The drop-backs (standing position to floor backbend) tackle fear for me in the most confronting way possible. For me there is nothing scarier than falling backwards in the hope that my hands find the ground and not my head!
As for the back-bending practice, well that whole practice is opening up totally new realms for me. It’s taking me places my body has never been, it’s causing lots of physical discomfort and pushing me into the space of vulnerability and openness constantly.
I’ll say it again…
What happens on the mat, translates into life.
If we repeat anything frequently enough, it becomes a new way of being.
Do I get bored doing pretty much the same practice every day?
Absolutely, but again this is something that I feel is needed in my life, I normally have so much freedom and choice. This practice is something that I commit to unconditionally for 2 months, it’s the challenge of showing up even when I don’t feel like it, when my body is aching/tired and the creative part of my yoga self feels like it’s dying.
More and more I come to see that it’s not at all about the postures, the real story and magic lies beneath the surface. It’s everything that’s taken place to make that expression of the pose possible.
I’m seeing that in many postures it’s not my body that is holding me back; it’s my mind.
As I break through these mental barriers the seemingly impossible postures just come, almost naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, physical limitations still play a hugely significant role and there are loads of postures where all the positive thinking in the world will not get me there. In this case though I continue moving in that direction completely content with non textbook looking yoga postures because I know that beneath that posture is a whole lot of work and more progress than will ever be seen by the observer.
Take this as an example; here is a picture of the physical progress of my Urdva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) over the last 3 years:
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Initially what you may notice is that my feet and hands are slowly but surely getting closer together, my back is bending more. What these picture don’t convey is what’s taken place to get me to this point. The struggles, the tears, the ‘this pose is hell on a stick’ phase, the ‘avoidance’ phase, the changes to my overall posture, the change in my physical and non-physical openness, the change in my ability to surrender, to be vulnerable. As my body opens, my mind opens, for those of you who know me well you have probably also noticed this over the last 3 years.
Yoga is so much more than a physical practice; with a little dedication there is so much to be gained.
I encourage you to step onto your mat recognising that it is a training ground, a mirror for life, bring your awareness to the mat and see what comes up!
Mandy Habener (Dumas)