By Kathryn Boland
There I was, in my typical Tuesday night yoga class. We were warmed up and moving into some vigorous Warrior flows. Having been on my feet all day long, my quads whimpered for mercy as I bent deeper into Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose). Ok, true, maybe my alignment got a little sloppy as I backed off my deep bend slightly. The instructor, whom I looked up to highly (both as a student and a new, quite green instructor myself), came over and gave me a physical cue to deepen me in the posture. “They’re watching you!” she whispered in my ear.
This Is Not Your Typical Yoga Class
Before moving off to adjust another student, she gave me a look that reminded me of the high expectations that she has for me – not letting me slack off, because she knows my potential and cares enough to make sure I keep reaching for it. At that point, however, all I was thinking was “So, I’m teaching even when I’m not? Really?”. I felt frustrated because this class was my time to work on my goals as a practitioner, rather than feel like I was working as an instructor.
I tried to deepen my breath and let my frustration go with my exhales. I tried to remember aparigraha, the yogic ideal of non-attachment – to disconnect from any inflexible ideas I had about my time in this class. I called to mind ahimsa (non-violence) – to dismiss any thoughts towards my instructor, really almost a mentor to me, that could create harmful energy. By the time we moved into inversions, I thankfully had achieved some measure of that greater inner peace. She began this section of class with guiding us into Handstand (or whatever variation of it that we could achieve).
I did my usual (half-hearted, I admit) standing on one foot’s tiptoes and extending the other leg high, trying to bring my hips closer to being aligned over my shoulders. The instructor, more gently this time, guided me to full Handstand by bringing my downward leg to meet the extended one. I felt a slight rush of panic, but breathed through it. She then, feeling me stable there, released her hold. For just a split second, I felt myself in my first Handstand off the wall. After that short time, one breath cycle, I tucked in my legs to release into a Child’s Pose. I then took breath or two to absorb what had just happened. For once, my fear of falling didn’t disallow me from experiencing the rush of the full posture.
While walking out of yoga class, I took in the most gorgeous sunset that I had ever seen. As another first, I had a deeper appreciation for that type of natural beauty – over the usual mental note of “Wow, how lovely” (or some variation thereof). What a night, I thought – frustration, to the thrill of new achievement, to a moment of deep gratitude for the simple wonders of existence. Yoga graces us with a beautiful way to look at the world through it all, that we’re all breathing as one no matter what. Now, to get that Handstand – off the wall – again…
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