"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hard Work

I'm lying on my stomach, arms underneath, "elbows should be between your hips and touching someday," hands flat on the floor, "little fingers touching." We're in the locust pose, made bearable only for the fact that we're on the floor and each part is only ten seconds.

It's during the third part as we're grunting to keep our "cobra tail" lifted a few inches off the floor that the instructor tells us about someone in California who is able to lift his legs not only off the floor, but also to touch his toes on the floor in front of his face. It takes me a few seconds to create that picture in my mind, and then we're in blessed savasana.

Kay goes on to remind us it's not how far we get into a pose but how well we do the form.

My yoga practice is shifting. I'm actually starting to believe her, and the other two teachers, when they say that. After months of throwing body parts into poses and hoping they stick somehow, trying my hardest to follow every single instruction to the max, and feeling frustrated at my lack of progress, I've begun to explore the possibility that they're telling the truth. Not that they weren't before, but now a truth that might have meaning for me.

The question that keeps asking itself is "How do I know I'm working hard enough?"

If I answer that question with how far I'm able to get into the poses then clearly I'm never working hard enough. If I answer it with how much I sweat and how hard it is to breathe, then just as clearly I'm always working too hard. So what if there's a different answer?

Form. Breath. Concentration.

We're told constantly to suck our stomachs in, to breathe, to keep our eyes open. It's interesting how hard it is for me to do all three of those at the same time. It's interesting how easy it is to skip all three in my desperate attempts to fling my cobra tail legs into the air. And, here's the aha, it's amazing how much easier it is to do locust (or any other pose) when I'm able to focus on the first three things.

How do I know I'm working hard enough?

"Suck your stomach in. Come back to it over and over. It doesn't matter how many times you forget, keep trying."

"If your breathing isn't normal, you're working too hard."

"Keep your eyes open. Don't let your mind wander away. Focus."

It's so clear, yet so difficult to trust as truth. A lifetime of working at everything as hard as I can - the level of difficulty and pain being the standard for success - and never feeling like it's quite enough. "So how is that working for you?" Maybe it's time to give a more gentle approach a try. To make form, breath, and focus the priority and standard. To trust in the possibility of a new definition of hard work, of enough, of success.

pictures from Flickr


patti said...

You are just amazing, Cat Bird!

Such truisms in this post.
I also do yoga as I watch "Law and Order" but my body contortions differ vastly from your pix.


scarlethue said...

Beautifully written. Thanks for that-- things I needed to hear today.

She Writes said...

Amazing pose! I need to suck my stomach in, breathe and keep my eyes open more than I do ;).

Amber said...

Umm. Holy crap.
I want/need to be more flexy...but wow. You better post a picture when you get THAT ONE!!!

As always, I am loving these posts.

:) oxox

Lizzy said...

That pose just looks painful but I appreciate the focus that is must take to do that. One thing at a time.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"Maybe it's time to give a more gentle approach a try."

Progress, indeed. Sisyphus. Great lesson. You are an inspiration. You have no idea what a pleasure it is to follow along on your journey.

Jan said...

Yesterday my ballet teacher said to us, as we were working on double pirouettes, "I was trained that the way to do a double turn was to whip your head around--'whip!whip!' But now, instead, I say to myself, 'relax; relax' and it's much easier to get around, straight and smooth and on balance."

I didn't really believe it, but when my turn came, I tried it, and she was right; 'relax, relax,' and believe that your body knows what to do...works pretty well.

I think it's the same thing that you're saying.

Carol............. said...

Been there done that but not quite as flexible as the picture!!!!

Go Mama said...

More Yoga breakthroughs! Love it!

Jerri said...

Tremendous insight.

No words could have been more timely or helpful to me today. Thank you.

patti said...

Missed you today! Hope you are havin' fun!!!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"I've begun to explore the possibility that they're telling the truth."

This is big.

And that photo? OMHOG! We did (or attempted) bridge pose on Wednesday - thought I would die.

M said...

Why is it that working harder doesn't always get us where we want to be? I love the concept of this blog...and causes me to ponder your message.


Wanda said...

Funny how truth catches our attention...differently at different times. Love being here with you.

fullsoulahead.com said...

I'm all for gentleness.

Though, come to think of it,that photo doesn't look all that gentle!

Pam said...

Yes, it's all about the focus. There are many analogies with Taoist Tai Chi about not working hard enough and working too hard but holey moley, that last pose!!.Think I'll stick to my hard work being "carry tiger to mountain"! Beautifully written Deb, and such an interesting and insightful journey.

kimmirich.wordpress.com said...

Whoa, amazing!!