"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

Thursday, January 28, 2010


A yoga pose named Rabbit. Sounds soft right? Gentle gray velvet.

"Sit in fixed firm pose, flip your towel over your feet, grab your heels, straighten your spine, look at your navel and breathing out slowly bend forward until your forehead touches your knees. The top of your head should rest on the floor. Not too much pressure. Make sure your heels are touching, the tops of your feet are flat on the floor and you're not moving your head. If your knees are no longer touching your forehead, scoot them forward one at a time. Pull hard on your heels, lift your hips so that your thighs are at a ninety degree angle to the floor. Keep your chin tucked. This is a compression pose. It's supposed to be uncomfortable. Breath normally. If you can't breath normally, you're trying too hard. Don't bully yourself in here. Suck in your stomach. Keep your eyes open."

Not a bit of softness to be found. I suppose we might look a bit like rabbits hunched in fear against approaching predators, but the metaphor begins and ends there for me.

At the beginning of my yoga journey, I didn't mind Rabbit so much. It's close to the end of the session and follows Camel which in the early days made me so dizzy and disoriented I could barely get started. So Rabbit seemed easy by comparison.

It also seemed easy because I only managed to hear about three of the instructions, and I was able to convince my body to do those three things. I held my heels, touched my forehead to my knees, and remembered to breathe.

Over time, I've been able to hear more of the instructions and apply them one by one. Each time I make an adjustment, I'm amazed at how it changes the pose. This week it was, "Deb, can you flatten the tops of your feet to the floor?"

I actually wasn't aware that they weren't flat on the floor, although it wouldn't have mattered because until that moment, I'd never heard that part of the instructions.

And so I did - consciously make the tops of my feet flatten against my towel without undoing any of the rest of the pose I was clinging to. My right calf promptly seized in a cramp that knocked me completely out of a pose we're told to come out of carefully because we could hurt our necks. Lying on my back like an upended beetle, desperately trying to stretch out the knot in my leg, and also attempting not to be a distraction while the teacher looked on in amused concern, I found myself thinking how different the pose felt for the two seconds I managed to be there.

Each new awareness and adjustment creates conflict for me. I get excited at my progress, and amazed that my body is starting to unloose the iron survival grip that's been my normal for years. I marvel at how one small shift can change the entire pose and stretch previously unknown territory. And then I struggle with the shame that it's taken so long to make such small changes. And then I look straight into the face of overwhelm at the prospect of how far there is yet to go.

We're told constantly, "It could take a lifetime to completely understand this pose. It's okay. Just doing your best will get you full benefits."

I want to believe that. Some days I do. Maybe even most days. And I appreciate the permission, even as I scoff at how ridiculous it seems. I'm surrounded by agile, flexible, nearly naked gorgeous young people who are more often admonished to not go too far into a pose than urged to go deeper. Best has very different meanings for them than it does for me.

My struggle is not with doing my best. I frequently mistake best with trying so hard I lose myself, and have worked hard to break that pattern. My struggle is allowing my best to be good enough for now, and trusting that over time best will change, and believing the growth is more than a finger pointed backward at where I think I should have been long before.

Perhaps Rabbit is meant to be gentle and soft, or at least the approach to it. Perhaps allowing my body its own wisdom and timing, trusting that it wants to be free at least as much as I want that freedom - perhaps that's the key. Yesterday in Rabbit the tops of my feet were flat on the floor, and it wasn't even that hard to convince them to go there. Now if I could only get my hips in line with my knees.

photos from Flickr


Carrie Wilson Link said...

"Lying on my back like an upended beetle, desperately trying to stretch out the knot in my leg, and also attempting not to be a distraction while the teacher looked on in amused concern, I found myself thinking how different the pose felt for the two seconds I managed to be there."

2 seconds was enough.

For now.

Such a great piece, such great self-awareness!

Amber said...

I agree with Carrie. But I think you always have such great self-awareness.

"I marvel at how one small shift can change the entire pose and stretch previously unknown territory."--

This popped out at me. I feel this way about my marriage right now. What a great mental connection...


Jessica Nelson said...

Yikes! Those pics are a rabbit pose? LOL Not sure I could do that.
I loved your line about my best being good for now. Or something. That hit me because I agree, our best shouldn't be trying so hard we lose ourselves.
Nice post!

Mark Lyons said...

After looking at your picture...I think I'll stick with the furry little gray critters. Your word pictures are beautiful...and the way that you continue to apply life lessons from your yoga is amazing. Continue to learn - and share!

I love you

fullsoulahead.com said...

We learn so much about ourselves in yoga!

Go Mama said...

Love your yoga reflections. Nice to read another one here.

Happy New Year. Been off blog for a while. It's good to be back.

Janna Leadbetter said...

There is so much to learn from yoga.

I wonder why so many poses are named after animals. Any insight into that?

Wanda said...

Never heard of rabbit pose. I think I am glad. Love your writing.

colbymarshall said...

Sometimes I read blog posts that just speak to me, and I have been lucky enough today to have read several...this is one, too. I am having a rough week, and I've been hard on myself thinking I'm trying so hard and just coming short. Maybe my best just needs to be ok for now. Thanks!

Lorna said...

Your rabbit pose mMakes me remember why I haven't gone to yoga class in a long while...and missing those days of reaching past my limits. Love the descriptions; made me laugh! Good for you for sticking with your practice. You have even more of my respect!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I went to Yoga last Monday night. So very hard. Plan to go again this Monday night. I feel like the elephant in the room. I will remember the calm of this post as I'm there.

kario said...

Oh, Lord, girl. You're killing me today! This year of yoga and writing has exploded for you! Your understanding of the nuances, the minutiae of what you're experiencing, the slow deliberate persistence with which you continue on - you blow me away. I am imagining this lovely glow of love and light coming from the center of you.