After two weeks of yoga class, some things are getting easier. I no longer feel as though I'll drown in my own sweat. I don't have to think about breathing through my nose, and I can even laugh at the instructor's jokes. The 90 minute session feels like an hour and a half of elapsed time rather than a day and a half.
More of the poses seem less daunting, although there are a few I can only approximate. And often it's a really wobbly approximation. Anything involving balance is beyond my ability to perform consistently right now.
Because I'm feeling more comfortable and slightly more flexible, I'm pushing a bit harder to reach the farthest potential of the poses I can do. Carefully.
I'm also beginning to hear a theme begin to emerge from the steady stream of instruction being provided.
"Lunge into it. Holding back will only make this harder."
"Go all out for every pose. Don't ration your energy. You won't know the limit of your potential, and you'll sell yourself short, if you don't give it your all."
"Kick as hard as you can. The harder you kick the easier this will be."
"Go to the point of pain (defined as stretching pain) and then go just a small bit beyond that."
And yesterday as I was on my knees, hands on my lower back, head tipped back, in the camel pose I've come to dread, a small airplane flew through my mind trailing a banner that shouted, "You hold back - always."
Completed, this pose involves bending all the way back until your hands hold your heels and you form a smooth circle with your body. I can never get beyond tipping my head back. Not because my back hurts - I don't get even that far into the pose. I get so dizzy the minute I tip my head, I'm sure I'm going to pass out.
Part of the teaching for this pose involves a warning about emotional involvement. The opening up of the chest that happens with bending back exposes the heart, and any unresolved feelings that might have been protected there.
My body has been so programmed to hold those feelings in, it would prefer my unconsciousness to opening up and letting them go.
I hear and accept the challenge: Caution only makes the journey more difficult. Being careful does not prevent pain. The safety of holding back is a lie. Now if I can only convince my heart, and my still sore back.
photo from Flickr