Dealing with the rip tides of one’s life.
One of the things I love about practicing a set series of postures every day is that it offers an opportunity to look at my patterns of action, my samskaras.
And then, I can use this awareness to understand where these unconscious reactions are coming from and how to move through them.
When I was first learning Ashtanga’s primary series I hated marichyasana D.
I couldn’t sit comfortably, let alone bind my arms, for months. My hips were tight, my ribs ached and my left ankle, the victim of numerous childhood sprains resulting in scar tissue, groaned as it was folded into half lotus and pressed into my belly.
However, if I thought about it, this posture was no more than five minutes of my day—including the time it took to set up, wait for assistance from my teacher, find my breath, take a vinyasa and then repeat on the other side.
Yet, I built it up in my head every day. The dread would come somewhere around janu sirsasana A. I was convinced I would never move on in the series.
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 became comfortable this realization slipped to the way-side, until a few weeks ago when my teacher said, “pincha mayurasana. You take it.”
I started to panic all over again.
Jump back out of that?! Surely, I’m going to break my nose, my neck. . . something. I started to panic. And so it’s been. A lot of panic. An agitation begins several postures before the actual event. A general feeling of doom casts a pall over my entire practice. Preparing to be afraid and thereby assuring I will be.
I was in Atlantic City this week for a two-day get away to celebrate my fifth wedding anniversary. My husband and I went for a walk on the beach in the morning and I noticed the sign warning of rip tides.
This triggered a strong memory from when I was a little girl 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 the rip tide’s pull.
I’m not sure I really understood the concept as a kid, but as an adult standing on that beach something clicked.
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, or a new pose, 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 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. And if it drags me from my safe place close to the shore’s edge, then I’m going to try to stay present with the moment (and the posture), no matter what.
And above all, I am going to remember that once upon a time, not too long ago, marichyasana D was something I struggled against, but even that current eventually let me go.
Tomorrow I am going to remain calm, and make pincha mayurasana afraid of me.
Meghan Kirk walked into her first Mysore practice room by accident, having missed an earlier class. It was the happiest accident of her life. She was awed by the focused energy in the room, the sounds of breath and the shapes the practitioners made with their bodies. She came back the next day, and the day after that.
A year-and-a half later, Meghan attended her first practice at The Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia. Immediately, she knew there was something unique about the space, the other students and her new teacher, David Garrigues. Although she has struggled with doubt for most of her life, her experiences at AYSP have made her a true believer in the power of Ashtanga and her place within the practice.
In 2012, she began apprenticing with David and is continually amazed by how much she learns every day. When not practicing, assisting David or teaching evening classes, Meghan works part-time as a Prevention Educator, teaching anti-violence programs to middle school children. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, Kirk, and their two miscreant dogs, Puck and Scrappy. Life is very good.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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