Take the Shape

I started a yoga practice (again) in January of this year. A friend and I hauled ourselves and our lower back pain to a Bikram class weekly for a month or two. My back pain lessened as I strengthened my core, but unfortunately I went into Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana too far too soon and injured my knee. With hips as tight as mine after 25 years of running, something had to give. I kept going back for a few weeks, but while I had a much more favorable impression of Bikram this time than five years ago, it didn’t grab me enough to stay. So I started a home practice, doing David Swenson’s 45 minute Ashtanga short form sequence after running 4-6 miles as a way to stretch my muscles, loosen my hips, and get a taste of yoga 3-4 times a week. I felt like this was the best of both worlds – I got to continue trail running, and then ameliorate or at least stave off lower back pain with yoga. But as has happened in the past, the more yoga I did the more I wanted to do, so my practice ventured on to David Garrigues’ 90-minute primary series DVD.

My Mother’s Day gift from my Ashtanga yogi husband was his spot in the Ashtanga class at the yoga studio he attends. I have done Ashtanga, this year and five years ago for a spell. I have watched my husband’s progression over the last six years. This is not new to me. But somehow, sweating my way through the Primary Series in the New England Yoga studio with a teacher I really like, I felt like I had come home. Who knows why things resonate differently with us at different times in our lives. Somehow, I was ready to receive this practice in a way I had not been ready to before.

Since that class, I have been awakening daily at 5:30 am daily so I can practice yoga before my day starts. In the past, this seemed like an untenable option. But the truth is, that commitment has caused many things in my life to shift, for the better. I go to bed earlier. My eating habits are downright admirable. I watch barely any television. All because I made a commitment to something that cannot be sustained unless I do those things. I am just completely blown away by this shift, and how easy it has felt. My hips are opening the tiniest bit, and my knee is improving incrementally. Sometimes I remember to breathe deeper through the challenges that come with raising my children. I feel courage and creativity rising in me that were buried before. I know it won’t always be easy. But I’m hoping this taste of what is possible will help me through those times.

I have a long way to go before I master Primary Series. A long way. At first I just laughed at poses like Bhuja Pidasana, Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana, and Garba Pindasana, because I was so far from being able to do them. Then I read something somewhere that referred to “taking the shape” of a yoga pose even if you cannot do the pose. This completely shifted my approach from laughing to starting to try. I don’t have to be in the pose, I just need to start to try to be in the pose. Move my body into the shape of the pose, even if it looks nothing like the true pose. And every day, my body will recall and take that shape, and perhaps move a little deeper. In this incremental way, maybe someday I will be able to take the pose.

This process reminds me of writing my Goals Articulation Statement for my permaculture design course and my Family_Manifesto. The key to a meaningful mission statement is to write it in the active voice, even if you are not there yet. Own it. I will ____. I am ____. Try it on for size. How does it feel to declare your values, desires, and goals? Personally, I felt like a fraud at first, because the things I was declaring did not yet exist as I envisioned them. But I wrote the statements anyway, and used them, and two years later I see how my life is incrementally guided and changed by them. I am many of those things I declared I wanted to be. I took the shape of those statements, and while it is a continuous process, I have made noticeable progress.

Everyone who studies Ashtanga knows the late Sri K. Pattahbi Jois’ oft repeated phrase, “Practice and all is coming.” Well, I’m ready to practice, and learn how to take the shape of the practice and my life as I envision it. And I don’t feel like a fraud anymore. Anything but. I feel expansiveness and possibility, all coming.

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