Arm balances can be intimidating. They require building strength in your core, shoulders, and arms. Many poses require flexibility in the hips, glutes, and lower back. They all require trust in your upper body to hold you up and also being open to (literally) change your perspective while you’re in the pose.
Bakasana (crow pose) is a pose I’ve been working on for awhile. There were two classes where I popped up into it without hesitation at the teacher’s cue and thought “wow, I could hold this pose forever!” But most times I tentitively hop onto the toes of one foot, then the other. I realized I was doing this out of fear: what if my arms give out? What if I fall on my face? What if I hurt my neck? While all these things could happen, focusing on them has prevented me from progress. Until yesterday.
During some downtime in my hotel room in Hanoi, I rolled out my mat and placed a big fluffy pillow on it and began practicing coming into the pose. The first few attempts didn’t work. My knees slipped off my upper arms and fell to the mat, my face hitting the pillow. So I tried again. And again. I felt the familiarity of not being able to do it, and then I realized I was expecting failure. I was expecting that my arms would not be able to hold me up, expecting that I would hit my face against the pillow and that my knees would slip from my upper arms. So I took a few slow breaths and reset my expectations. This time, I didn’t expect to fail, nor was I eagerly wishing for success. I just wanted to try it. Up I went, and for 2.5 seconds, it felt great! I was in balance, on my hands, feeling weightless! Then disbelief and fear crept in and I came down with a thump.
I practiced for a while longer, one more time catching that weightless effortless feeling. It was awesome.
Yeah, yoga is about more than achieving difficult poses. But what goes into practicing a challenging pose is exactly what yoga is about: using strength without forcing, using flexibility with stability, and staying curious with the process. Oh, and going for gold 🙂