On the first Sunday of every month, Mula Yoga hosts a community class for teachers and advanced practitioners to come together and flow. There are always lots of really good hugs going around and a deliciously sweaty practice. It’s such a sweet and wonderful experience to move alongside dear friends and make new connections — I love practicing with a variety of teachers from the local yoga community and experiencing their unique offerings. Every month, I continue to be blown away and totally inspired by the calibre of teaching and practice that I am surrounded by. There was a moment this past Sunday when we were all revolved in Compass pose, hearts open, our aim true, and I gazed around the room and thought to myself, “How did I get so lucky?”
Yet, underneath all the warm and fuzzy feelings lingers a creeping sense of inadequacy, and doubting self-thoughts. ”Why can’t you cue as beautifully? Sequence as fluidly? Move as elegantly?” my mind will whisper, trying to convince me that I am a total fraud and that I most certainly do not belong among such yoga superstars. Undoubtedly, I am my own worst critic; as much as I rave about others, I judge myself harshly. At the same time, I tend to be extremely sensitive to criticism, making for an unpleasant combination. So, as amazing as the community practice makes me feel physically, the battle going on inside my head adds a dark cloud to an otherwise profoundly elevating experience.
The thing is, it’s really easy for me to default to playing the comparison game as a measure of self-worth. Growing up a twin made everything into a competition to be seen and recognized. Being a recovering perfectionist makes even the smallest of flaws seem colossal. Being a teacher — standing up in front of a group of people and sharing an experience — is, in and of itself, a deeply vulnerable and challenging experience. The real work and practice lies in objectively seeing my patterns of damaging self-thoughts for what they are: damaging self-thoughts.
It is said that if we sort by differences, we will always see the differences — but if we sort for sameness we will always be able to see the true oneness of all things. The whole purpose of yoga is to come together and unite, not to find more ways to segment and feel bad about ourselves. I needed this reminder. At the end of the day, we’re all just doing our best. As a teacher, my mission isn’t necessarily to be the most popular or even the most talented yoga instructor, but simply to create a safe and welcoming environment to facilitate breath and movement. What the local and global yoga community is teaching me is that we are all connected — from our darkest doubts to our greatest achievements, we share these experiences when we simply come together to practice yoga.
Deep down inside, I know that mixing up my left from my right doesn’t make me a terrible instructor. I know that the value of who I am isn’t measured by Facebook likes or Twitter followers or how many people know my name. I know that I have something beautiful to offer the world. I am deeply grateful to those who remind me of this every day. Carl Sagan says, “We are made of star-stuff. Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all.” I say that we can twinkle brightly on our own, but when we come together, we can truly light up the whole universe.
jumping back & jumping through.
While my teaching and personal practice is primarily Vinyasa Flow-based, recently I’ve started to dabble in Ashtanga yoga (is that an oxymoron?). I’ve been practicing Primary Series once a week, and quickly came to the realization that my practice isn’t quite as strong or as advanced as I had previously considered. There were some poses that felt (and still do feel) like a complete mystery to me (Chakrasana was terrifying, albeit somewhat more manageable now, Urdhva Padmasana feels totally impossible, and who even came up with the idea of Janu Sirsasana C?) — but none more so than the elusive jump back and jump through. The first time I practiced led Primary Series, my body felt like a bag of bricks that I was dragging around, and by the time we got to seated poses, every attempt at a jump back and jump through only became sloppier and sloppier. Blaming my anatomy (such a reliable scapegoat), I convinced myself I couldn’t do it (my arms are way too short), and found a sneaky cheat way around doing the work of picking up and jumping back by pressing into my feet, placing my hands on the mat in front of me, and flinging my legs back into Chaturanga.
Serendipitously, my foray into Ashtanga yoga coincided with a period of particular “ruttiness” in my life (ruttiness (n.): a perhaps made-up word used to describe a feeling of being stuck, confused, discontent, bored, not challenged, etc.), and was just the wake-up call I needed to bring myself back to reality and shake off the dust. As in, dig in and really start putting effort into creating positive change and moving forward rather than digging myself deeper down into my rut.
So, I’ve given up all my excuses that my arms are too short, my centre of gravity is too low, I’m not strong enough, not flexible enough, not dedicated enough, or generally not capable enough, and I’m working hard on my jump back and jump through. Meaning I am pressing down into my hands and hugging my knees in to my chest as many damn times a day as I can, and now my legs are bruised in weird places and my wrists feel tender but I’m still trying. I practice jumping back and jumping through before bed until I’m dripping with sweat and then I fall into an exhausted sleep and dream about floating from Downward Dog to Dandasana with effortless grace.
I am reminding myself that even when my mind whispers, “You can’t”, my body declares, “I can.” I relentlessly and wholeheartedly pursue my capability to master this movement because I know that it is possible. I feel my muscles aching and my joints cracking and I know that something is happening for me because I am willing it to. And even though I’m not there yet, I am blissfully celebrating the fact that I no longer cheat my way through it, and that when I push into my hands I can lift my hips higher than I could before and it actually feels like the work is working.
Working on my jump back and jump through has been a humbling and inspiring experience, one that is also making my entire practice more fluid — my arm balances feel easier, my inversions feel stronger, and my transitions are smoother. Not only that, learning this tricky transition is teaching me how to navigate my life with more grace and ease, reminding me that the can and will is so much more powerful than the can’t and won’t. That challenges are always opportunities, as long as we choose to see them as such, and that when we pour our heart and soul into something wholeheartedly, an undeniable shift occurs. So here’s to digging in rather than digging down. To the struggle, the possibility, and the lessons. Oh, and to jumping back, and through.
I’ve spent the last few days moving, breathing, sweating, laughing, dancing and playing at Wanderlust California. I am coming home exhausted, sore, a little bit sunburnt and totally inspired.
orenda (huron): the power of human will to change the world. set up as an opposing force to fate or destiny. if powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force a particular outcome, orenda is a kind of vocalised summoning of personal strength to change this.