I have been practicing the ashtanga yoga method for close to two months now. One of the reasons I find this yoga method so challenging, and yet such an important practice for me, is that it demands me to work through the uncomfortable more than any other practice — which is a good ability to have when you are no longer on your mat. There is no retreating into child’s pose while the rest of the class does the offending asana. The sequence is set and you do every pose in order – sometimes more than once until you can get it right. The 6 day a week commitment that I had worked my body into adhering to fell by the weigh side with my son’s return to school.
Last week, my efforts to continue my practice at home fell short. There was the full moon, and then my own cycle, my son’s dependence on me to get out of bed, to get his new contact lenses into his eyes, and more and more reasons why I couldn’t. With each day that I cut my practice short, for one reason or another, the stiffness and pain in my back increased. I slept less and was more intolerant of the daily irritants that life brings. And I began to understand why this practice works.
On Saturday, after dropping the boy at football practice, I went straight to the store for the makings of a pulled pork dinner for my extended family. As soon as I got home, I got it into the crockpot and started in on cleaning the house. By 10:30 am I was exhausted and the house was far from right. I left it anyway, for I just couldn’t do any more. I ate a little something and retreated to my mat for a well deserved practice.
Midway through the standing poses, exhaustion was urging me to stop. I ignored it. Toward the end of the seated poses, weakness told me that I didn’t have any more energy and that I should just quit. I kept on. Partway through the primary poses, after I feel out of a pose and onto my butt, I was feeling like I just could NOT do ANY more. I willed myself to continue on. By the time I finished the entire sequence, I was truly feeling exhausted, weak, and completely done – and yet I was also inspired, empowered, and encouraged for having found my way past all of the excuses that urged me to give up my practice.
Later in the day, when the pork shoulder would not give way to the prodding of my fork and looked as unappealing as the dead rat I found on my back porch just moments later, I began to cry. The family was coming for dinner and I somehow had to overcome this obstacle. So I did what every smart yogi in my situation would do: I picked up the dead rat, went out for a chocolate cake for the birthday boy, and made reservations at a nearby restaurant. With any luck, the overwhelmed and defeated feelings I was experiencing would also morph into something more positive as well.