“Crow Pose. Mentally, the crow is a great yoga posture to incorporate regularly into your yoga practice as it improves concentration and calms your mind.”
Calms the mind. Oh really?
I know this woman – let’s call her Paula Pretzel for the sake of the blockhead’s anonymity – who has been taking yoga classes for maybe 5 minutes and can master the most intricate and challenging poses within seconds of having seen them.
“Hey look at me! I just contorted myself into upside-down arm-burning hell on earth pose and it felt so great! Namaste, you guys! It’s been fun!” And just like that, she’s out the door with yet another strong pose under her stupid belt.
“I TEACH YOGA!!” I holler, as I shake my fist in her direction and watch her peel out of the studio parking lot.
Sometimes – and I know this is very non-yoga of me, but – I really want to just tip her over while she’s doing all that fancy schmancy balancing on her head.
When I first started practicing yoga all those years ago, it was easy: a warrior pose here, a sun salutation there. No big deal. But once I started to gain the muscle and the will to try the more advanced poses, well that’s when yoga became a game changer. You learn a lot about your body and mind and how important it is for them to work together when you’re on this journey.
I had been working on crow pose for months. I would manage to get into the proper position to lift myself into it, and then just as it seemed as I would achieve the pose, I would come tumbling down instead.
It became a frustration. It became an obsession. I would work day in, day out trying to lift myself into crow. I would practice it in the strangest places or at the oddest moments: at my son’s music lessons, while I was on the phone, or unloading the groceries from my car into the house. I kept hoping that during one of those random moments, it would finally happen.
It was only when I found myself interrupting my daily yoga practice to attempt it that I realized if I continued in this manner, it would never happen. Not because I wasn’t capable. But because I was losing focus on what mattered.
Nothing in life ever just happens. We make it happen. We get out of our own way and we make it happen. And as I began to understand that I was getting in my own way, that’s when the real progress began.
After a ton of soul-searching and falling on my face, I realized it boiled down to fear of failing. I believed that I could not achieve the pose. I believed that it would never happen. I believed that I was too weak for it to happen. I believed I would continue to fall over and over and over on my face until I looked like I went more than a few rounds with Muhammad Ali. All of that self-doubt held me back and it would continue to do so until I figured out how to get my mind and body to work together instead of against each other:
Mind: Here she goes again. She thinks she’s going to finally get this pose done. As if.
Body: I can’t concentrate when you’re rambling on and on like that. Just shush, will you!
Mind: Oh sure, like that’ll help.
Body: Okay, here she goes. Heels up, lean forward, bear the weight in your hands and…DAMMIT.
Mind: Ha, you see! I told you! It’s never going to happen.
Body: Would you just keep your big yapper shut for a second? How can anyone get anything done with you yammering on and on and on–
Me: You know what? I’ve had enough of the two of you and you’re both going to pipe down and listen to me for a change. I am NOT going to quit. And I most certainly am not going to let the two of you morons take this away from me. So you either get it together and start working as a team or you’re outta here!
Mind: Did she just call herself a moron?
Body: Just humor her. And here we go again….
The bottom line is…once I acknowledged that I was sabotaging myself, I was able to gain better focus on my practice and finally move forward with confidence. We do this to ourselves all the time: that voice of self-doubt creeps in and we give up because we convince ourselves that we won’t be able to rise to the challenge. Yoga reminds me every day that it is my responsibility to keep that voice down to a minimum. It reminds me to be proud of my failure because how I respond to it is what matters most.
So now when I see Paula Pretzel casually lift into a headstand or float on her pinky, I smile. Because I have something she doesn’t: a true sense of accomplishment and appreciation for what this long journey through the practice of yoga has meant to me.
And I love myself for it.
Even though I still, kind of, sort of… want to tip her over.