The November Yoga Challenge I’m doing on Instagram is going well, though it is showing me, among other things, how out of practice I am. Proof: I seem to have slightly hyperextended my lower back. I think it was either the forward fold or the downward dog that did it, or both. It was starting to feel better until I did many, many Warrior III poses yesterday, trying to get a single good picture (which I did not). At any rate, I’m trying to be gentle with myself while working my way back into a steady practice.
Today’s pose – Utkatasana, or Chair Pose (what I think of as Lightning Bolt Pose, which is another name for it) was one I find surprisingly challenging, given how simple it looks. It is awkward, for one thing (actually, I believe another name for it is Awkward Pose). And it’s dynamic – meaning, I find it takes quite a bit of intention to hold it, there are little movements that seem to be happening in my body just in order to remain stable. This is usually more obviously the case when it comes to poses that require balancing on one leg; it’s a little more surprising when it’s the case for something that looks like little more than a mild squat. I find it requires a serious engagement of the core, which is good, because that’s something I really need to work on.
It turns out that, for me, this yoga challenge is not only a challenge to get into a daily practice of yoga. It is also challenging me to consider how I see myself. When I look at the pictures of my asanas (poses), my eye is always immediately drawn to: 1) what is wrong with my pose, and 2) what is wrong with my body. I know I’m not unique in this self-critical reflex. It’s nice to be pushed to post photos I don’t find particularly flattering, and to really reflect on my self-perception. For instance, in the photo below, I immediately notice my thick middle. But I am pushing myself to take notice, too, of my strong legs. This picture was taken right after I got home from the gym, where I had just set a personal record on the leg press – lifting 290 pounds (not counting the sled weight of 118lbs.). I’m proud of what my legs can do – so why do I focus first on what I wish my stomach looked like?
I can’t say I love this pose like I love so many others. But it does have a lot to teach me.
Today it is teaching me to open my heart, to be gentle with myself, and to love where I am.
Wishing you the same, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Namaste, y’all!