I went to my Friday a.m. yoga class and it began with the teacher, Susan, invoking the Bhagavad Gita and a podcast she recently listened to from Hetain Patel, who said “every time I fail to become more like my father, I become more like myself.” The gist of it is that we shouldn’t waste our time trying to emulate aspects of other people we admire—we should become more authentically ourselves. The BG says something to the effect of “it is better to do your own dharma imperfectly than to do someone else’s dharma perfectly.” The closer we get trying to emulate someone else, the less like ourselves we become. It’s such a great lifelong lesson, one I wish someone would teach to every adolescent in this country. But that’s another story.
How foretelling this would be, I had no idea when class began. About halfway through, we went to do pincha mayurasana in the middle of the room, with a partner for assistance. We were instructed to do it twice, kicking up with both legs. So I usually swing right and get up easily. Krissy was my expert assist and I was very close to getting up and sustaining it on my own with no wall, no falling. I must pause here for a second. This in and of itself is an accomplishment. Just a few months ago I was feeling the pose approach, puzzling over how a pose that you get into via momentum of leg kicking becomes something you can do with ease, away from the wall. How do you stop yourself? It’s a reminder that yoga is such a feel-it-out practice; it is not a think-it-through endeavor, although afterward I love deconstructing a pose with the best of ‘em. But as a rule, you have to get out of your head and drop totally into your body when you go upside down.
So, when I switched to using the left leg, I overdid it. On the third kick, I was so off kilter that I kicked Krissy in the side of face. I seriously hope she’s okay tomorrow. I came down hard on the left knee. It was so bizarre. Susan said, “What happened, did you have a spaz attack?” And I said, “Yes, that’s a perfect way to describe it.”
Later in the practice, we did some binding, which I don’t typically enjoy because I always need a strap. There are only so many things someone with short arms and a long torso can do in these situations. It’s frustrating to feel your limitations, especially when it comes ladled on top of a weird experiences such as kicking a teacher-classmate in the face. When there are binds with funky transitions to things like compass pose and then a final end in an arm balance, well, you lose me three quarters of the way through. Not my favorite, but it is what it is, and it’s all part of a practice.
We then moved to the wall, and did some more pincha: regular, followed by hollow back, followed by scorpion. Well, I could not get myself up into a sustained pincha to save my life, for either of the first two. I got into child’s pose and just started crying. I tried to stop judging myself; my practice is my practice, but it just happens to be public right now. And I admonished myself for not practicing enough at home so that this would be effortless every time, like it seems to be for most other people (I know, problem number one—a ridiculous assumption on my part, but there it is, as fleeting as it was.) I wish I had more spare time to tinker with my poses. Way to go, yoga, for pushing all my creaky old buttons, yet again!
Something wacky happened on the third try, with the scorpion feet. I positioned myself without even thinking about it, and my hips magically floated me up. Suddenly, I was airborne, then tops of the feet took the wall, toes facing down. Magically, out of nowhere, Susan emerged to give me a lift under the sacrum and lower back. If I had the energy to do it again, I would have pulled away from the wall; I was a little crunched and didn’t want to aggravate a weird muscle pull I tweaked a couple weeks ago.
So what’s the point of all this? The point is, we can’t compare ourselves to other people. We can’t even compare ourselves to who we were the day before, the hour before, the minute before. This is liberating and frustrating at the same time. I once remember reading Wayne Dyer talk about how our cells are constantly changing, every second, so that the person I was when I sat down ten minutes ago to start this blog post isn’t the same person I am now. Whoa. Kind of heady, right?
In thinking about this and talking about it, I described this as “my pincha broke today.” Just when you think you have a pose, or you know something, or can do something, your head and your body sometimes don’t cooperate and you’re in a different place with it. I’m not back to square one, exactly. But it’s another reminder to drop any expectations and remain a detached observer. I guess today my dharma was to see what happened when I used an unfamiliar route to a familiar pose, and not let it all get stuck in my head. Even if that meant kicking someone else in the head.