I completed a rare activity today. I committed to a full self-guided flow at home. One of the reasons I chose to practice at home was that I wanted to work on getting closer to a legit handstand. I warmed up, did a few vinyasas, made my way back to downward-facing dog, and then began to prep.
Scooting my feet part way up the mat, I lifted my left leg. With the reassurance of a wall, I kicked up and quickly but softly made contact. I pulled away from the wall, played in a short hover, and then as slowly as I could, allowed one foot and then the other to find the ground. My left side is my good side. Having the ability to kick up, then pull my foot back and hover even for a split second is an accomplishment for this acrophobic practitioner.
After having enjoyed a measure of success on my left side, I went to the dreaded right side. Sometimes, I don’t even bother with the right side. My right hamstring is so tight, it’s difficult to lift my leg, let alone gracefully kick up into a supported handstand. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I floated my right leg, bent my left knee and kicked. Everything felt completely different. Nothing reached the wall, my core didn’t engage and my mind was prepared for landing before I had ever taken flight. I was so convinced that I would fail that I never gave myself a chance to succeed. And then a familiar line drifted into my head, “How you are on your mat is how you are in life.”
It’s a common phrase in the yoga world, especially in the Baptiste world where I’ve done most of my yogi training. I didn’t appreciate the implications when I first heard this statement, so I decided to agree with it when it was convenient.
I consistently work hard when I’m on my mat; that means I’m a hard worker. Gold star.
I try new poses even when they’re scary; I’m comfortable with the unknown. Gold star.
I focus on the foundation of a pose and build strength so that I am controlled and do not risk mine or others’ safety; I’m not reckless. Gold star.
It took some literal practice, but I soon started to allow the less convenient truths to surface. Today, through yoga, I had a reminder of one of my behaviors.
When I don’t think I can do a pose I allow my body to disengage and my mind to wander; I let negative beliefs stunt my ability for success.
Learning (or re-learning) this about myself isn’t upsetting. In fact, it’s helpful. There are tasks I come across on a weekly basis that I don’t think I can do. For me to tackle them takes some serious convincing of mind, body, and soul. But because I know I tend to let myself get away with less effort on more daunting tasks, I stay alert to signs of apathy and consciously keep pushing forward.
There are lots of ways to tap into this self-awareness. Yoga provides an opportunity where the mind is (relatively) cleared and more available to recognize strengths and areas for improvement. It also provides an environment for working on such areas. You better believe that after a quick child’s pose I was back in position ready for a wholehearted right-side attempt.
I often tell people that I got into yoga because of the physical workout. I kept going back because I was intrigued by the practice and wanted to improve. It wasn’t until I began to notice a mind-body connection that my whole being began to open up to the practice. Self-awareness is a powerful tool that can lead to incredible self improvement. Maybe its not yoga for you, but find your vessel. Keep a positive mind and never assume that you know what is or isn’t possible. I haven’t hit that handstand yet, but I know I can - left or right side - or maybe even both legs at the same time!