Matter over mind.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
I actually do one thing that scares me every day. Every morning, in fact, at around 6:45am.
Kapotasana scares the crap out of me. Why? Well. Come to your knees, about shoulder (or a little wider) apart. Bring your hands to heart center, and then lift them over your head. Bend backward until your head hits the floor. Bring your hands to your feet.
It looks like this:
And you’re not done. That’s Kapotasana A. For Kapotasa B, you do something that, especially once in Kapotasana A, pretty much seems impossible. You straightened your goddamn arms.
I can do both kapotasanas. Really. But I have my toes, not my feet in A. And my arms are not straight in B. And I need help – my teacher always assists me in getting out of these asanas (read: yoga term for postures). Yes I mean that literally.
So, yeah, I know. What’s so scary about that?
Are they painful? Not really, interestingly enough. I know that I rely more on my lower back than I should. But I’m not in pain. It’s the good kinda hurt.
The anxiety isn’t about pain. It is about being so completely out of your element.
I am in an utterly alien place when I am in Kapotasana. Every single time, it’s… “oh, hello, floor, where did you come from?” and “Toes! What are you doing back there?? ”
It is also the absolute trust I must have in my teacher – the complete reliance on another person. I don’t know how I would get out of these postures without help. Ever do that trust thing where you fall backward into the waiting arms of your colleagues/friends/random acquaintances/whatever? Yeah. It’s kinda like that.
It is also the attempt to surrender my mind to my body.
It is quite clear that my body is capable of doing this. It is my mind that is not.
I am fine with both of these, but when I finish my vinyāsa after Laghu Vajrasana, and come to the front of my mat with my hands in prayer at heart center, every single time my mind just wants to chant “shit shit shit shit shit…”
And I have to shut it the hell up.
It’s really interesting when your brain is terrified of something your own body can do.
In addition, about a month ago, I was given modifications to begin learning the Eka Pada Sirsasana series.
In case you were wondering, these are really effing difficult. I don’t do these. Yet. I pretty much flail around, trying to get my leg behind my head, when really it just goes about to my bicep. Then I try to get it to stay there. Which it would rather not do. Then I try to lift something (anything really) up.
Ha. Ha ha ha. Today, my teacher came over in mysore while I was
flailing around attempting Eka Pada Sirsasana C and said, “let’s try to get your foot off the ground.”
That’s funny. Sure. Let’s try that. Oh look. I have NO control over my foot right now. Like, none.
So. Not only does yoga scare the crap out of me on a almost-daily basis, but it makes me flail around and look like an idiot, one without control over my own limbs, as well.
And. I have only been given the first half of second series. This is what is coming…
Yeah, ok. All that shit looks fucking hard and it is (now you understand how yoga can be scary). But I just want to say that once upon a time I was not at all flexible. I could not touch my toes. I still am not flexible in some respects (*hamstrings,* thank you very much, and really, you can’t move that way at all, hips?).
It doesn’t mean these things are impossible – it just takes practice. In addition, if you’ve ever practiced any kind of yoga, you know that everyone is flexible in their own ways. Some things are reallyreallyfuckinghard and some things seem natural and you feel like a Yoga Stud (yes. I did just say “yoga stud.” With capitals.)
These are things yoga has taught me. Difficult things are not necessarily impossible – but they do take hard work and dedication. Not everyone has the same skills – but we all have qualities that we should be proud of.
And then there is the fear and the hey-you-look-like-an-ass part of yoga.
Yoga teaches me that sometimes we need to quiet our thoughts, our “shit shit shit” chants and the fear and self-doubt chief among them.
To trust others just a bit more.
To trust our own bodies a bit more – sometimes it is not mind over matter. To trust that we are capable of doing things we’re afraid of – to let go of “can’t” and embrace one of my all-time fav sayings of K. Pattabhi Jois, the yogi who brought Ashtanga yoga to the Western world:
“Practice, practice, practice. All is coming.”
To put ourselves in places that are outside of our comfort zone, outside of our element, and completely alien and uncomfortable.
To twist ourselves, in mind, spirit, and (obviously) body, because doing so changes our views, our minds, our bodies – it changes our selves.
It’s also about staying humble. Understanding that you can and will look like a fool sometimes when you try new things. As you learn new things. But you can’t not do them because you’re afraid of looking like an ass.
These are good things. These are things we should do. Even if you don’t practice yoga (and actually think I am totally bonkers right now – for more than one reason), there is something to be learned here.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
There’s a reason Ms. Roosevelt gave this little piece of advice. And I don’t think she practiced Ashtanga.
For more information on the practice of Ashtanga yoga.