Cultivating the Most Difficult Asana
Whether you are an advanced student or a new beginner, the practice of yoga offers itself to you each moment as a deeply transformative experience. The heart of yoga is to bring you back to your true essence ~ back to who you are and have always been. This is the nature of transformation ~ a journey rather than a one-time change. Instead of leading you toward being someone “new”, yoga guides you home to a deeper understanding of yourself and to a new way to be in the world. It assumes and honors your innate goodness and wholeness.
Yoga encourages transformation by inspiring and supporting us to shift unhealthy attitudes into healthier, life-affirming perspectives. Attempting a new yoga posture or coming back to a pose after injury or illness often asks us to take on a new shape, both with the body as well as the mind. In this moment we come face to face with all we are able to do and all we are unable to do. Many times judgment and criticism arise and the moment is clouded by disappointment and discouragement.
When faced with what is often called “a limitation”, we have the choice to respond to our body’s abilities with patience, love and compassion or to react with impatience, disappointment and frustration. Our choice determines our stance. We have the opportunity to be open and expansive, flexible and balanced by being who we are and by meeting our mat with dignity, strength, compassion and love. When we meet a challenge in this way, we participate directly in our own transformation.
One year ago, I was run over by an SUV and nearly lost my life. Being on life support in a major trauma hospital rendered me unable to move, talk or breathe on my own. I had taught an advanced vinyasa flow yoga class only two days before the accident, so finding myself helpless, seriously injured and close to death seemed unbelievable. My healing journey had begun and each day was to be a step along the way, presenting new challenges and opportunities.
Today I am able to walk without assistance and to write this article while on a celebration trip to Bacalar, Mexico, enjoying the healing, turquoise waters of the Yucatan. I am now able to practice a few asanas, the most challenging being the “present moment pose”. This pose is not found in any textbooks yet weaves itself throughout all yoga practice as it asks us to be aware and accepting of ourselves – no matter what – and to align ourselves accordingly. This means we bring a curiosity and openness to the moment and to the pose along with acceptance and love for ourselves. We do what we can. Sometimes this is a tall order!
When I find myself longing to be more physically agile, more balanced and, well, more like I “used to be”, I laugh at myself. There have always been times of wanting things to be different! The “present moment pose” ~ bringing the fullness of attention and awareness, non-judgmentally, to the moment ~ invites me to practice yoga in a way I’ve not done before. This “pose” invites me to surrender my thoughts and to embrace the beauty and truth of my personal yoga practice rather than long for an ability to perform in a certain way. Yoga is the practice of celebrating what is, not distressing over what is not. Once again I have been given the opportunity to welcome each moment without comparison or judgment. In doing so, I gain the ability to be more of myself and to transform obstacles holding me back from being fully present and welcoming all that is in my life.
I invite you to welcome each moment in your life as an asana ~ an opportunity to embrace transformation~ by breathing deeply, sitting or standing in a dignified manner, and dwelling in acceptance, gratitude and love. This “present moment pose”, as I have come to name it, welcomes each moment as a gift and an opportunity to bring excellence, fluidity, grace and tranquility to your yoga practice and to your life.