I’ve been participating in an Instagram yoga challenge this month designed to help you get your legs over your head. I doubt getting my legs over my head is going to happen any time soon; nonetheless, it’s been a pretty eye-opening (err…and hip-opening also) experience. In the beginning, I wasn’t having much problem with any of the poses, but this week the difficulty has been taken up a notch.
Two days ago, the challenge pose was Marichyasana. It’s not a pose I do in my regular practice. I tried it without any props and ended up giving myself a shoulder cramp. Only after causing myself a significant amount of pain, I used a strap. The next day was Marichyasana B, and I decided to approach things differently. Instead of trying to jam my bones into impossible positions, I was going to be sensible. I am unable to do the lotus variation of the pose safely so I decided to attempt Marichyasana again with the use of a floor pillow under my hips as well as a strap. I noticed a stark difference in how I felt in them, and I think one even looks more strained.
I have a multitude of excuses why I resist using props, everything from, “That block is way over there..like 5 whole feet away!” to that inner cheerleading tyrant that says, “You don’t need props. YOU CAN DO IT!” I’ve talked about my inner-cheerleader before, and while most people rely on that voice to get them through their darkest hours, listening to mine can be highly self-destructive. I know, in this culture at least, we teach children at a very young age that they can do anything they set their minds to. The intention is positive, but I think it can have darker ramifications. We grow up believing that we should have everything, and anything we don’t have is because we have failed to attain it. We didn’t work hard enough. We didn’t have the strength, fortitude, or the character to will it into being. The end result is spending your life is some shame spiral about all the things you weren’t good enough to achieve.
During my yoga teacher training, we had the privilege of meeting Dr. Stan Beecham, a sports psychologist, and the short time we spent with him was pretty profound. He talked to us about self-help books and experts who promise that we can have anything we want if we set our minds to it. He said that they leave out the second part, though. You can have anything you want, but only if you are willing to pay any price.
Why did I resist using props? I think mostly, I didn’t want to look like a novice, and I didn’t want to admit I needed help. I am finding with my practice (and most things in my life), that I am really concerned about looking a certain way. There’s still that part of me that wants me to look good at any price, regardless of discomfort, or bodily harm. Through inquiry and introspection I have found that saying, “I can’t” doesn’t have to be defeatist or pessimistic. “I can’t” is the reality, not the obstacle. If anything, “I can’t” simply shows us where NOT to go. Your “I can’t” can even be empowering if you can make a simple choice. When inability is followed by shame and judgement, we will stop dead in our tracks. When we can meet all the “I cannots” with one simple question the whole world opens up. It’s the one question that will keep you moving, growing, accepting, and being here in this precise moment.
“So, now what?”