A few days ago I had one of the most challenging yoga practice days ever. I started off in the morning with a MySore Ashtanga practice, the third day in a row. So my muscles were already a bit sore. Then in the evening, I’d signed up for the 90 minutes Flow 2 class with the tall, handsome arm balance practice pro teacher. (Yes, I’m starting to get a little bit insane)
The morning went well. Start to get the hang of this now. Towards the afternoon, I started to fall asleep though and I thought, how on earth will I ever make it to class? I even had to drink a coffee (I stopped coffee some time back). What motivated me in the end was that feeling of the class that I had experienced last week. The great music of the teacher and just the ability to “flow” with your breath. Calm, challenging and just that feel-good immersion during and after class.
I decided to not push too hard and to be kind to myself. After all, I was running into the 3rd hour of intensive practice for the day. I saw one foreign guy and put my mat next to him. Towards the end, we practiced handstand. This is something I really would like to get better at. Not for the aesthetics of the pose, but because I know what is required to make that happen for me.
My monster is fear
We all have different monsters and ghosts that prevent us from doing certain things. Normally it’s something that develops with age. When we are younger we think we can do everything. When children learn how to walk they are not scared. They just try and try until it works. Their curiosity takes over the “impossible”. Of course, they fall and often hurt themselves. But 5 minutes after (or sooner), they are up again, trying again without fear.
When we get older we develop this “monster brain”, that sounds horrendous. What I mean is that we get that second voice in our head that tells us, “no you can’t do that”. “It’s too dangerous”, “I’m too old”. “I will hurt myself”, or “It’s impossible”. Slowly we let that monster take over until we totally convinced ourselves that we can’t do things. Of course, I’m not saying we should all go and throw ourselves off a cliff. Some consciousness is good to have. But what happens when the monster brain becomes bigger than ourselves? When we let it take over? Well, we limit ourselves to our potential and do less and less. Perhaps we go more into a routine and enjoy life less.
This might not be the case for everyone but in many senses, it’s true for me. I clearly have childhood memories as a very active child. I had no fear whatsoever of rolling back on my head and just experimenting with gravity and my body. Standing on my hands against a wall, hanging with the feet from a tree or a pole. Those were the things I used to do every week.
Where am I now? Well, I’m over 30 and I’m scared of doing handstands. I’m scared of hurting myself, fall over, break my neck, my back or worse. And I’m only 30! This is ridiculous. So I’ve decided to beat this fear and practice until I can do it. It might take 5 years, maybe 2 or even less. Who knows. I’ve been doing some practice with kicking up, tapping the leg and to catch some air. That goes so so. What happens is that in my fear, I have now power and simply don’t realise how much of a momentum I need. So my attempt to get up more looks like a frog jumping up 5 cm.
Two seconds that lasted an eternity
So what happened on Friday? We practiced this hard thing of trying to kick up from your knees (impossible for me) so I was kind of cheating a bit. Then I did it! I tapped my foot went all the way up. That nice foreigner guy helped catching me (it was a pair exercise). Then I was standing ALONE for two microseconds up-side-down! It might not have looked like the picture but it felt that way, who cares.
When you are in that moment, it really doesn’t feel like two seconds. It felt more like ten minutes. It took me a while to realise that the guy wasn’t holding me to balance. I was sure he did, the I realised I had no hands on me and it was just me and myself standing upside down. Euforia started to get into my brain and I realised that this was a huge micro step for the progress of my own practice. The guy even said it was good. So happy.
Of course this is nothing if you compare to the level of the other yogis. I’d like to go up all by myself. Even jumping up with the two legs together or ultimately, pressing up to your hands. But that will be a long way to go. These two seconds meant a lot to me and I’m feeling I’m slowly getting over my fear. It is not that scary and my monster brain is slowly shrinking.
Perhaps that’s what yoga is about. Self-awareness and control over the body and mind. When you realise the things you can do we start to apply it to other aspects of life. We become braver, more intrigued to try something new, curious to push ourselves outside of the comfort zone.