by Yinn Lim / (Picture by Phoenix Suranofsky for Sophia Ott Yoga)
I have been doing this arm-balancing and inversion workshop based on Yoga movements for the past 8 weeks and it has been so much fun! My body has gotten stronger and my body awareness in space has been infinitely enhanced. My goal, when I first started, was to be able to do a freestanding Scorpion pose (Vrischikasana), and as part of the workshop, we had a photo opportunity for 3 chosen postures at the end of the 8 weeks. Oh boy oh boy, I was so going to nail this Scorpion.
On that fateful morning, I warmed up before the photo shoot and easily floated (ok, that was what I thought I looked like in my mind’s eye!) into the first 2 postures. I then humbly asked for help from my teacher to assist me into my peak pose, Vrischikasana. My shoulders were “on”, my core muscles tensed, my butt engaged, my body awareness completely heightened as the teacher gently cued me into the posture, all the while holding onto my feet until I was ready do this all on my own. It felt like forever…it felt like I was bent in half the wrong way, my arms were tiring as I tried to stack shoulders over my elbows but I was determined, even as I felt the wobbles. She released my feet gently and…..I did a spectacular sideways-backwards crash onto the floor (yup, I even missed the mat). After the usual fussing, I was asked if I wanted to try it again.
I said…no. It was tough to say no because that felt like giving up, like I let myself down by not trying again. However, I learned in that moment that I had to honour my body and honour where my practice was at that morning.
As the day wore on, and I had time to reflect, I realised that I had attempted a pose, searching for the end-product of what I considered to be perfect form. Anything less would not be good enough. Any asana is a journey in itself and also part of a greater journey. That is what Yoga is. What asana you can or cannot do at any one time is not a reflection of who you are. In fact, asana is only one of eight aspects, or limbs, of the great sage Patanjali’s ‘Ashtanga’ Yoga. So really, you can practise Yoga without moving a muscle!
I am reminded of words from a Leonard Cohen song, Anthem:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
Too many of us are victims of self-imposed ideology of perfection. We have to look a certain way, wear certain clothes, live in a certain suburb, hold a certain job, behave in a certain way to certain people, and appear unblemished and poised ALL (well, most!) of the time. It is easy to forget that what we consider fallibilities, go largely unnoticed by those who care and love us. We are often our own harshest critic. There is so much beauty in vulnerability, so much courage in trying something new without knowing what the outcome is going to be, daring where others fear to tread.
Good ol’ Leonard reminds us that we need to have chinks in our armour, that we have to metaphorically (or perhaps physically as well!) break from time to time, in order for us to get more insight into ourselves and to allow us to identify as human, with other human beings.
When we can stop holding ourselves so tightly, stop being so bound to our expectations of perfection, it can feel like a weight being lifted off our being. The lightness we experience allows us to fly. And I have no doubt, in my case, balance upside down gracefully in Vrischikasana.