Thursday, January 28, 2010

Acceptance

Supported PaschimottanasanaImage by tarnalberry via Flickr

The focus of my yoga classes this week has been acceptance. We've been practicing being present with the body we have today and accepting whatever our limitations are. We've been embracing our imperfection and approaching our practice without expectations, just letting it be what it is going to be. I've been reminding my yoga students that who we are changes every day, as another 24 hours of experiences get woven into the tapestry of our lives.

Letting go of our egos and accepting everything about ourselves, even the things we don't particularly like, is challenging. I'm guilty of sneaking a look at the person on the mat next to me and comparing my form to hers. Sometimes I have to rein in my ego when I guide a student into an asana deeper than my body will ever experience. My tight hamstrings and crooked hips have been berated and cursed - in the privacy of my own practice, of course.

The safest asana practice is one that starts with acceptance. When we approach our mat with expections for ourselves, telling our body that it is going to comply or else, we set ourselves up for failure and a potential injury as we try to force our bodies beyond our physical limitations. A practice begun with awareness and acceptance of our bodies, without judgement, can be very freeing. As we move to today's edge we can explore our limitations and discover little openings that allow us to gently ease deeper into the pose.

One asana that really tests my ability to accept my own limitations is Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). My cursed hamstrings and a tilted pelvis limit my forward movement. My ego screams in my head as I glance around at a room full of yoginis resting on their legs without strain while I struggle just to reach my toes. For many years I hated Paschimottanasana, gritting my teeth and enduring the pose whenever it was included in a class.

It wasn't until I started working with some students with lower back issues that I found my peace with Paschimottanasana. Working with straps around our feet and blankets under our sitting bones, we moved forward tiny amounts, creating just a bit of stretch in the hamstrings without forcing the low back into an uncomfortable position.

And, slowly, my hamstrings are starting to open.

I'm not expecting that one day I'll be able to fold in half. (I'm trying not to have any expectations at all.) I'm just enjoying exploring my new edge in my practice, rather than worrying about what comes after it. For me, being able to hold the pose for peaceful minutes instead of painful seconds is better than being able to lay on my legs.



Note: my seeds are still hanging out in the soil. Stay tuned...
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