I was on my mat, squatted down in Mālāsana, when the instructor invited everyone to attempt Crow pose, or Bakasana, if we felt up to it. I’d been feeling stronger in recent weeks when it came to yoga class so I thought I’d go for the challenge.
Carefully, I got myself into position, mentally saying, “Strong hands. Eyes on the floor about a foot in front of your hands. Knees in armpits. Gaze forward.” And the next thing I knew, I was getting air time. I let out a not-too-loud, “Woo Hoo!”, and broke the pose, my feet back on the mat as I resumed my squat. I was tingling with the thrill of accomplishment even if it was having my feet up in the air for two seconds. They GOT there! It had taken me nearly two years to reach that point, but reach it I did. And that got me thinking about other things that have taken time.
I’m glad that I spend almost the first half of my life free of the trappings of the Internet. And, I love the Internet! But it has helped to fuel a society hell-bent on instantaneous everything. Gratification should be immediate whether it’s dating, oil changes, or morning coffee. We are collectively forgetting that some things simply just take time. Sometimes they take a lot of time. And usually these same things require us to put in effort we don’t anticipate.
As I thought about this subject over the days, I realized that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort working on things that interest me. I have spent years learning about plants and know a great deal about them, from lawn grasses and evergreens to vegetables and tropical houseplants, but that knowledge was not gathered instantly with a snap of fingers. I spent time with people who loved plants, from tagging along with the neighbor as he planted his garden and tended his apple trees to tagging along with my “’nother” siblings to horticulture practice to reading about plants, working in greenhouses and at landscaping companies, and time! Hours and hours of time spend being out there in the garden, greenhouse, forest, or now, in my own house with my jungle having been moved indoors for the winter.
I’ve experienced many a set-back, have nearly lost one of my orchids a handful of times, have outright killed other plants through negligence and/or ignorance, but with every failure, I learned more. Through this learning, I’ve managed to keep that previously mentioned orchid alive for nearly 30 years. I have teased Mr. Muse that I have had a longer relationship with that orchid than I have with him!
I have put so much time into learning to crochet, cross-stitch, sew, and other crafting projects that to spend a four-hour stretch working on embroidery seems to be of no matter in the grand scheme of things because with each satin stitch and French knot, my stitches get better. My work becomes neater and tidier. And the fact that I have a lighted magnifying lamp means that my eyes don’t get as tired. So, I’ve learned to work smarter, too.
And so I thought about my little triumph of “air time” in Crow and how far I’d come in practicing yoga. To be quite honest, I went to that first class with an open mind but part of me was definitely convinced that I would hate it. I played soccer for nearly 20 years; kinder and gentler yoga did not feel like it would be a good fit. I was uncomfortable with the group inhalations and exhalations, and to be honest, I still am. I still don’t like to say “Namaste” at the end of class. I definitely think that some people take class time far too seriously.
So, I like to keep to the back of the studio where I don’t feel as bad if I fall or stumble, following it up with a snort and laughter. I have pushed myself to go with the flow and breathe in and out with the group but I remain silent when the collective “Namaste” is uttered at the end of class. But I revel in the things I’ve gained from going.
I was able to execute some rather difficult poses with ease right away, but others which seemed like they should be easy were literally a huge stretch for me. Initially I was angry with myself at what I thought was a failure of body and will to do these “easy” poses. If I could do the single-legged balance pose Dancer, without issue, why was a seated forward fold so hard!
Great instructors, small bits of information gathered up over time, and increasing awareness of body slowly started to click together. About six months ago I realized that I was able to move into certain poses more fluidly with an ease that I definitely did not possess when I started going. About four months ago I realized that my thighs were leaner, more toned and definitely stronger. A month ago I realized my upper arms were far less jiggly as I flexed in the bathroom mirror in giddy delight. The other week, when I finally achieved Crow with my feet in the air and I was balanced for two seconds and didn’t come crashing down but made it back to my feet in a controlled manner, I allowed myself to feel that joy and happiness that comes with accomplishment.
And this is not to say that there haven’t been failures. I’ve struggled with allergies this year that have left my sinuses clogged and my equilibrium reeling. I’ve stumbled and bumbled my way through some classes because as soon as I’d move into any pose with my head down my world would spin. I’ve cracked my head on the studio floor nearly a half dozen times. My back has spasmed when doing intense core-work, making me curl up into a ball to stretch things back out. I’ve had my feet cramp and contort at the most inconvenient moments. And I’ve also gotten cocky.
The other week was one of those weeks where I got cocky and was immediately humbled when I literally fell on my face. It was during another opportunity to get into Crow and I was feeling enthusiastic due to my earlier success. So, with my inner monologue coaching me along, I got into position and pushed myself up and achieved air! Another two seconds. Another success! I made a controlled descent to my feet and did it again. I repeated the process and made it only a second before my arms quaked a little. I got back to starting position and thought I surely had one more in me. One more success at getting my feet up and balanced and THEN I would call it good.
I’d failed to pay attention to how my arms felt before this pose. We’d done many “flows” with lots of planks and down dogs and my arms were feeling it. They were fatigued but ignoring all the warning signs, I gave it one more go and just as I was getting my second foot in the air, my left arm gave out and down I went, landing on the left side of my face, the frame of my glasses knocking hard against my brow bone, sweat and oil smearing over the lens. Consider me humbled.
Righting myself and checking my glasses, I felt my face and satisfied I wasn’t bleeding, got a drink of water while I admitted to myself that I got overconfident and cocky. I wasn’t embarrassed because this has probably happened to everyone at some point in yoga. At least one instructor has said, “Every good yogi falls on their face.” So, I rejoined the rest of the class where they were at and finished out the session meeker, but ultimately amused.
Two years and many classes later, I have come to appreciate the changes I see in myself, physically and mentally. Successfully completing the Crow pose has taken time. When I first saw it being done shortly after starting classes, my jaw dropped and I laughed nervously with a mental, “NO WAY!”. When I first started class my planks would last 20 seconds before my body gave out. Now? I can go quite a while in a full, high plank. My seated forward folds were me, folding at the waist and my upper body bending in an arch with my hands on my knees. Now? My nose is much closer to my legs, and I can reach farther than my feet.
As with my indoor jungle, my crafting projects, and everything else I do that takes time and effort, improvement isn’t instant. It’s incremental. It’s three steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes improvement is so subtle that we don’t even notice we’ve improved until we notice we’ve stopped making the same old mistake.
Now, here I am able to get into Crow! None of these accomplishments happened overnight. None of them were instantaneous. They took time, effort, and even some deflating crashes to the ground. But all of it was worth the results I see and feel now.
And, if I’m to be perfectly candid – I’m going to continue going to yoga because it’s making my ass look great!
There are two things in this world, people who are asses and people who have great asses. I’m glad you have worked hard on the latter ;). I have to admit I admire your determination.
Thanks! I’ve been happy with my progress and look forward to more muscle definition!
Hopefully I see that definition again someday in someone’s fine art photography. 🙂
Oh, that’s wonderful news! I remember making the goal of doing a single pull-up. In the internet world, it was REALLY HARD, because, well, it seems everyone could do them. But I worked – did increasingly advanced pulling exercises. Finally, I was able to do a chin-up. And then a pull-up. Then Two. Then more . . . then my surgically repaired elbow slipped while I was pulling & I sprained my wrist. But I was doing pull-ups regularly.
But there is something about slow & steady progress actually leading you toward achieving a goal. it’s truly amazing. Thanks for sharing.
Thank YOU for sharing. Your pull-up story is similar to my running story, which I’ll need to repeat in the future since I want to run a 5k, that “I’ve run thirty seconds and feel like I’m going to die” moving to “Holy shit! I’ve run 15 minutes straight and feel pretty good!” is a wonderful thing.
Now, I’m curious to know if I could do a pull-up…
I’ve never been to a yoga class but I have tried Pilates and was that slightly over-fed chap at the back of the class, largely made up of ladies groaning “Oh No” and “Blimy” as I was asked to arrange my body into one impossible position or another. Now I have joined a gym, sadly without a cafe or supply of carrot cake, in order to seek greater fitness. Your adventures sound a lot more successful than mine , even if you are sometimes a little over-confident 🙂
Congratulations on your fitness adventure, Peter! I’ve not tried Pilates, but a number of instructors where I go for yoga incorporate Pilates moves like flutter-kicks, which I dreaded initially and recently I discovered that “Hey! I can do these!” I wish you all the best on your search for greater fitness – it’s not easy but worth it!