One thing I love about Ashtanga is that it’s a practice that truly allows you to see your progress. Because it’s a set series, every class is the same order of poses and so each time you’re on the mat you have a chance to work. Going deeper in poses you are already comfortable and familiar with while also working on those poses that still prove a challenge. Some poses come easier than others. Some are still an obstacle, nearly a year later. But it is called a practice for a reason.
Just look at headstand. I spent months hating that pose — no, really. I even told my instructor that once — but I refused to give up. No matter how inferior that pose made me feel, I always at least tried. Week after week, month after month. Then one random Saturday, a Saturday like any other, I was suddenly upside down.
Six months later and I still need to utilize the wall. But I no longer need to bang my feet against it for support, I can get them up more fluidly. And eventually I know I’ll be rocking it out in the middle of my mat. Just have to keep practicing and with Ashtanga I get to do it every week.
At the same time, though, as much as I love a set series it’s one reason why I also love checking out different classes as it gives me an opportunity to challenge my body in unfamiliar poses. Sometimes I even get the opportunity in class, which is what happened this past Saturday when my yoga instructor Jessica was telling us about another class she had taught recently where they did One Handed Tiger.
As I watched her gracefully lift her hand and leg, grabbing her back foot, I thought I want to do that.
So I did.
I love being surprised by what my body can do. Sure, I can’t get my leg up very far, but just look at that arch and twist in my back. Balancing poses are my challenge and it took me about
four five times before I was able to stay up long enough for a photo, but I did it.
The one thing that yoga has really taught me is to believe in the power of my body. To love my body, every fucking inch of it. Looking at the photo I don’t see the excessive upper arm fat, I see the fact that I’m balancing on a single arm. I don’t see fat thighs, I see the beautiful curve of a leg as I reach back to grab hold. I see focus in every limb. I see strength and determination in my gaze. I see strength and determination in all two hundred plus pounds of me. And nothing speaks more to the significance of those two hundred pounds than the shanti tattoo peeking out above my top.
Looking at that photo, I have never felt prouder, stronger, or more beautiful. It’s the best type of beautiful, too, the kind that comes from the inside out. An esteem that resides entirely inside and is not dependent on external forces. Too often in the past my sense of self has taken its cues from other people, but not anymore. These days I go through life holding an energy, a fire, deep inside that leaves me buzzing and glowing. The sunlight streaming through my bedroom window onto my face isn’t the only light visible in the picture.
I’m talking about the light you have to ignite all on your own. The light that says take me or leave me. The brave, confident light you take off the mat and carry into the world.
Love from the ashes,