Last night in my yoga class, I finally was able to do what I've been calling my "nemesis pose": bakasana, or crow/crane pose.
[That's bakasana, but that's not me in the picture — not by a long shot. I borrowed it from here.]
Referring to one of the asanas as my "nemesis" is not yogic (new word!) in any way. What matters is that I saw bakasana, thought it looked super-cool and wanted to do it, too.
But, the thing was, I couldn't. Not for months. I'd try and try almost every day, even laying piles of pillows in front of me in the event I fell on my face (which I did, several times). I watched videos of people doing it on YouTube. They made it look so easy, which further annoyed me that I couldn't do it.
And then one day, I just stopped trying. I didn't give up, exactly, but I just stopped trying. I am not a proponent of anyone quitting anything, but I do think that we need to step back from things and reassess sometimes. I figured that someday I would be able to do it, just like I can do wheel and plow and side plank pose, which I definitely could not do when I first started practicing yoga last spring.
But last night, I did it. I could tell we were moving toward bakasana when the instructor, Lisa, had us squat down into garland pose and place our palms on the mat in front of us. "Here it comes," I thought to myself. She walked us through step by step until we got to the big moment: lifting both feet off the ground. I let my eyes flit around for a moment to see who could do it, and then I reminded myself that if everyone else in the class or no one else in the class could do it, that had no bearing on my bakasana.
I planted my palms again. I nestled the backs of my arms into my knees. I tucked my body and rounded my back. I lifted up onto my tiptoes and walked my feet slowly toward each other. I took a deep breath and leaned forward. I picked one foot up and then put it down. I picked the other foot up and then put it down. I exhaled and picked up both feet. For one glorious second, I was flying.
Yoga has taught me so much, and one difficult lesson is that I cannot, in fact, do it all — not always exactly when and how I want to, anyway. I was raised to believe that if I worked hard enough, I could do anything, but that I needed to do so with honor and kindness and dignity. There have been times in my life when I have not acted that way, that when I look back, I think, "My mother would not have been happy with me for doing/saying that." I believed that I could have a child and work full-time as a professor and write and cook and bake and decorate and host parties and volunteer and read and make crafts and garden — all while maintaining a spotless house, a perfectly behaved child, a flawless marriage, and my sanity, naturally — and do whatever else my silly little heart desired whenever it wanted simply because I was working hard enough.
One of the hardest pills I have ever had to swallow was this: I can't. Perhaps others can — it seems others do it much better than I do when I read their posts on Facebook [snicker, snicker] — but I can't. Not all of it, not at one time, not right now.
My quest since my son was born has been to find balance, but I have stacked the scales against myself. When your life is too full, when your time is too limited, when you are hustling all of the time, when there are no moments of quiet or peace, when you spend too little time having fun with your partner, your friends and yourself, balance can't happen.
I am trying to let the quiet in. I am trying to stop always looking for the next project. I'm trying to let life — the life I actually have, not the life I think I want — happen. Maybe by letting go, I will have a better shot.
My frequent intention in yoga is "gratitude." This is an important one for me: to remember to say thank you but to also be grateful for what I have in my life. When we are grateful, we peer inward and think of the good things we do have, rather than looking outward and focusing on what we don't have. When I am grateful for the body that has carried my son and been free from major illness or injury all my life and is strong enough to raise up into bakasana for even one second, I am not thinking about how I still have stretch marks and how — let's face it — the boobs and belly will never, ever look the same.
When I am grateful for my home and all of the laughter and great meals and parties that have been had here, I mind its Brady Bunch–era "charm" a little less. I pay less attention to the Pottery Barn catalogs and the blogs that showcase styled corners of beautifully photographed homes that are inevitably cleaner and cooler than mine. When I am grateful for my job, I find myself more excited to take on the challenges of educating future journalists and less affected by the bureaucracy and politics and endless meetings that come with it.
These are important lessons for me — ones that I have to remind myself of over and over again. I am not a religious person (that's another post for another time), but these intentions, whether they be "gratitude" or "peace" or "patience" or "kindness" or "joy," get pretty close for me.