Twinkling blue eyes that reflected pain sometimes, a bit of fear at others, and always boundless joy and Love. Looking into the eyes of my friend Sally, you knew that you were accepted and trusted....
What I Learned From a Crow
When I first began teacher-training years ago, I seemed to be a natural at most of the poses. I had a battle with a few of them but, for the most part, I just seemed to get the mechanics of the poses. Some even laughed and told me that I must have been a yogi in another life.
But there was one pose that seemed to be so elusive to me — bakasana, commonly know as crow pose. When I was first introduced to it, I thought, “I can do this, I’m good at the asana part of my classes. NO PROBLEM!!!” I got into the set-up position, confidently hopped my knees up on my upper arms — and PLUNGED FACE FIRST into my mat. I was humbled and in pain. I was very disappointed in myself and judged myself terribly. How was I ever going to become a teacher if I couldn’t do a simple arm balance? Then I began to tell myself that it didn’t matter. I would still make a good teacher and so what if I couldn’t do this pose, it did not define me as a teacher. (This is what I now pass on to my students: face each pose without judgment or control.)
However, it took me a while to accept this. My internal conversation went on for years. I would see my yoga teacher friends doing it and think “if they can do it, so can I.” I would try again and again would not be able to get it. At 52 years old, I was starting to believe I would never be able to fly like a crow. And I would tell myself that I was okay with that, knowing deep down in my core I was not okay with it. I wanted it! I wanted it so badly!
A few weeks ago I was in my studio doing some work at my desk, and something was triggered in me. I’m not sure what it was, but something told me to get up and try again, so I did. And I fell. I tried again and fell again, and again… Every day I worked on my crow pose. I introduced it to my most advanced students and said we were going to learn this together. I was not going to deny myself anymore — I wanted it.
Well, the falling continued, and then one day, I did it! Only for a split second, but I did it. I was elated!!!!!! Maybe I could get this!
Then a very dear friend of mine reminded me of how at one time Ardha Chandrasana had been elusive and now it is one of my favorite poses. Keep going she encouraged, keep working at it. And last night it happened again! I focused, I concentrated, I smiled and was joyous and I got into it and held it for 15 to 20 seconds before tumbling down. Long enough to get a good picture to put on Facebook. I felt as though I had conquered the world!!!!!!
But why was this so monumental for me? Why did I need this? What did I hope to gain from it?
Through the years, I have worked at my personal power. Being the youngest of 11 kids, I grew up feeling powerless. I’m not blaming anyone; it was just the pecking order of growing up with 10 older siblings. One of the older kids always had the better ideas. This feeling of being powerless followed me for years. It was accelerated by an illness that I knew I did not have control over and was also powerless to conquer. But I also remember my doctor telling me when I had came out of a coma that I must have been as tough as tiger teeth to pull through. Deep down, I knew I was strong and powerful but I just couldn’t seem to access it. So, to me, this pose represented empowerment. It embodied strength and fearlessness. To me it represented that, at 52 years old, this baby crow was beginning to fly and it meant that I would be able to stand strong no matter what happened. I just had to learn to be patient.
What I didn’t realize is that being patient IS being strong and fearless, and that IS personal power.
It took me 15+ years to hold a pose for 15 seconds. That is yoga. It comes when the time is right, when you are ready. I can’t wait to see what is around the corner. Who knows? It could be another challenging pose – the scorpion!