In yoga, as in life, some things come easier than others. An affinity for sweat-free exercise, natural flexibility, and a desire to find peace led me to the practice, and the strength, calm, and support I found in Ashtanga yoga kept me there.
Certain poses, like Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold) and Baddha Konasana (Seated Butterfly Stretch) were "easy."
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel) and Garbha PIndasana (Womb Embryo) seemed impossible.
Halasana (Plow) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) were familiar, tricks I practiced while watching the Barcelona Olympics, my version of gymnastic feats. I pretended I was Shannon Miller and Kim Zmeskal and felt strong. Sirsasana (Headstand) reminded me of how far I had to go. It scared and intrigued me. Still does.
Some yoga poses (asanas) are black and white. Either you can do them or you can't. They're like a 100-yard dash, a Fast Break goal.
Others require more work.
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) is one of those poses. It took me a long time to get to where I am today. Hand pressing in to the floor, top shoulder rolled back, neck long and strong, top arm fully extended, back foot firmly pressing in to the floor.
The pose is a balance of strength and flexibility.
In this classic version, you create one long, unbroken line from the ankle to the fingertips. That diagonal line is accompanied by the right angle of the front leg, and the perpendicular line formed by the bottom arm.
Long and strong.
Pressing down and lifting up.
It's a study in balance as well.
This pose reminds me that the goods things in life aren't easy, but they're worth it.
I could have given up.
I could have practiced this pose with one of the more modern twists, added a bind, a bit of flair.
I could have taken a step back and been happy stopping before all the parts were in place.
But I didn't.
A few weeks ago, a fellow yogini commented to me that she loved watching me in that pose. In yoga, competition is discouraged, and because we're all looking inward and focusing our gazes, rare glimpses into other people's practice are a chance to admire the beauty of the human body and of the asanas.
I smiled and thanked her. That day had been rough. I felt sluggish through our opening sequences, but by the time Extended Side Angle Pose came around, all the parts were in place. I felt at peace.
This month, Tina, a fellow blogger, set up a Yoga Pose Challenge, and I am honored to be a part of it. This is the pose I chose to demonstrate. The reason I chose this pose was not to show off what I can do or introduce you to a pose that might seem daunting.
This pose represents an obstacle, one that I've overcome and one that is now a memento from the journey.
Think back to a year ago. Where were you? Where will you be a year from now?
Losing weight, running a race, finishing school. When we look at life's milestones from a broader view, it's a great way to feel small and impotent. Breaking them down into smaller goals gives you a boost along the way. This yoga pose came to me in pieces: Front leg grew stronger. Side body lengthened. Back leg grew more flexible. Back foot stayed grounded. Piece by piece, day by day, the pose came together.
For full instructions, click here.
What serves as a physical souvenir from your journey?
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