It’s never as easy as it seems.
On a whim, I dyed the tips of my hair lavender last week. After three days, I shampooed and all the color ran out. Hairstylists know that unnatural hair colors often don’t have great staying power, but people who never dye their hair (me) certainly don’t.
After a return trip to the salon, wherein I now match my yoga mat and my yoga tops — because I only have two I wear all the time and they are both (yes, you guessed it) purple — I felt like getting philosophical.
Making a change isn’t always the hard part; it’s the upkeep after a change is made. That goes for hair, bodies, minds, hearts. Stop practicing piano and you lose your momentum toward learning Fur Elise. Stop stretching your hamstrings and you lose the touch of your toes.
The upkeep is why plants in my home usually die and my favorite clothes get pills or rips and why our refrigerator used to stink until we were gifted this device called a BerryBreeze which does the upkeep for us.
Eventually, what you stop doing catches up with you, and one day you reminiscence and think, “Why did I ever stop? If I had kept going, I would have been so [advanced, flexible, loved, fill in the blank] by now.” What you practice you become.
This is how we form regret in our body. We punish ourselves for the lack of upkeep. Yet many of us, upon this realization, won’t budge. To change now feels as unnatural as purple hair.
Regret turns into defeat, and you can spot it in people all day every day if you pay attention. You’ll even spot it in yourself. Here’s what it sounds like:
- I wish I could…
- I’m too old for…
- I’ll never be able to…
- I just can’t…
- I’m so jealous of…
What’s behind all those words is an underlying resistance to enter into the part of you that wants to become Yourself.
Ego gets a bad rap, but accessing ego is one trick to getting unstuck. When we tune into the part of ourselves that seeks accomplishment, we begin to overcome internal resistance.
While practicing yoga on a rooftop during sunset this week, maneuvering my body into head-to-ankle and foot-behind-head poses, I began to crave accomplishment. It took me by surprise because my yoga practice this past year has been steady and foundational in a refining-the-basics kind of way.
But during that class in the open air with a view of the Denver skyline, I wanted my foot behind my head because… well, because I wanted to prove it to myself.
It’s never as easy as it seems. But the yoga instructor gave me “tricks.” Put my leg just so, reach my other arm to my knee, press and like magic, there went my ankle behind my head.
Without even knowing it, I was refining the basics in this posture, too. When you think of each posture as a series of basic refinements, the “advanced” label dissolves and in its place an “I can do that” attitude resumes.
Your heart doesn’t forget
Our practice on the mat mirrors our life in so many ways. When you purposefully hold yourself back from asana that scares you, what else are you stalling in your life? When you get anxious to nail a posture you’ve never done before, where might you lack patience off the mat?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to bathe in the success that comes from finally doing something you’ve never, ever believed you could do. There is also nothing wrong with making excuses so that you never end up with the success in the first place.
There is something wrong if either of the above aren’t in alignment with what you truly want, deep down.
Your mind can forget, but your heart won’t. Your heart will tell you what you want above all else. The trick is to sync up the mind and heart so that they’re on soul time.
When it comes to the upkeep of your life, beware of the self-doubt that’s disguised as fear. She or he usually says, “You don’t need to prove your body can do that. Yoga isn’t about that posture.”
It is and it isn’t. While the achievement of a posture itself is fleeting, the playground that asana provides for living your yoga is endless. It’s where you practice being truthful with yourself — the yama satya — because you cannot lie your way into a posture. Your body tells only the truth at any given moment, and it’s up to you to listen.
Our yoga mats are both the site of change and upkeep. In one year, what will you say when you reminiscence?
Try it: Happy Baby Pose With Wide Legs Variation
I was never taught a name for this posture — just given the option to straighten my legs if I wanted from Happy Baby Pose. (If you know the name, please tell!)
Since I was little, “wide-legged anything” flexibility has always been a challenge for me, and it brings back memories of dance class where we put our legs in this position against the mirror and agonized at the law of gravity for five minutes.
So I guess you could say it’s a bit of a personal revelation to be able to encircle my big toes in this posture as a grown-up. What you practice you become.
- Lie on your back with your hands on top of the knees hugged into your chest. Separate your knees toward your armpits, then reach up and grasp the big toes with your thumb and forefinger.
- Inhale fully and exhale fully, extending the legs up and out to the sides. If you lose contact with your toes or if your upper body leaves the mat, bring a gentle grip to your ankles or calves. Allow yourself to support your legs in the best way possible for you right now, while allowing the upper body to relax.
- Curl your tailbone down to the mat and press up through the soles of the feet, toes flexed toward the ground. Reach outward toward the soles through your inner thighs. Stay for 5-6 deep breaths, then bend the knees and bring the legs back into the body, hugging your shins. Roll onto your side and press up to seated when ready.