One of the things that I love about practicing a set series of postures every day is that it offers a very powerful opportunity to look at my patterns or action, my samskaras, and in turn, to use that awareness to understand where these unconscious reactions are coming from and how to move through them. When I was first learning the Primary Series I hated Marichiasana D. I couldn’t sit comfortably, let alone bind, in that posture for months. My hips were tight, my ribs ached and my left ankle, the victim of numerous childhood sprains and resulting scar tissue, groaned as it was folded into half lotus and pressed into my belly. Really, if I thought about it, this posture was no more than five minutes out of my day, including the time it took to set up, wait for my teacher to assist me into the pose on one side, actually breather there, vinyasa and then repeat it on the other side. Five minutes at the absolute most is a very short time to deal with any amount of discomfort, really. Yet I built it up in my head every day, starting to dread the sensations to come somewhere around the right side of Janu Sirsasana A. I was convinced I would be stuck there forever. Then, somehow, I bound! One day my finger tips touched for the first time. And within a month I couldn’t help but think, “Why did I make such a big deal out of this?”
I started to realize that this was a pattern in my life; dreading what was to come to the detriment of the present moment. Beating myself up over the things I wasn’t able to do. Unfortunately, as I got comfy with Marichiasana D I let that realization slip to the way-side, until a few weeks ago when my teacher said, “Pinch Mayurasana. You take it.” And I started to panic, all over again. Jump back out of that?! Surely, I was going to break my nose, my neck… something. I started to panic. And so it’s been. Lots of panic. An agitation that begins several postures before the actual event. A general feeling of doom that cast a pall over my entire practice.
I was in Atlantic City this week for a two-day get away to celebrate my 5th anniversary with my husband. We went for a walk on the beach yesterday morning and I noticed a sign at the entrance that warned of riptides. Suddenly, I had a very strong memory of my dad telling me that if a rip-tide ever took me I shouldn’t struggle. Struggling was what caused people to drown. If i suddenly found myself being dragged away from the shore I should stay calm, and then swim parallel to the shore line until I was able to free myself from its pull before attempting to come to shore. I’m not sure that I really understood the concept as a kid, but as an adult something clicked. (Check out the instructions on how to survive a riptide here: http://www.wikihow.com/Survive-a-Riptide )
Practice can dredge things up. Powerful emotions come to the surface, even when things on the surface seem smooth and calm. Add in a new challenge and suddenly there can be a powerful tug of something unseen, just below the surface, that knocks you off of your feet. The key is to remain calm. To breathe. To be right there with whatever you’re feeling, but not to succumb to it. Trying to fight something as powerful as fear by being ever-vigilant and anticipating the situation will only exhaust you and prove futile in the end. So I am returning to practice tomorrow with a new perspective. I am going to try to ride the rip-tide out, should it drag me from my safe place close to the shore’s edge. I am going to try to stay present with the moment (and the posture) I am working on, no matter what that moment or posture happens to be. And above all, I am going to remember that once upon a time, not too long ago, Marichiasana D was something I struggled against, to the detriment of all the other wonderful postures that came before it, and that current eventually let me go. Tomorrow I am going to remain calm. And make Pincha afraid of me.