Those are the moments in fairytales and in life that really change it all.
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I have a huge fascination with anything fairytale related. They pull me in and never let me go, these marvelous stories.
But the truth is, as much as I love the Disney rendition of these tales—and I do love me some Disney—I am more of a purist at heart.
I would much rather know that the Little Mermaid dies broken and unloved than believe that, somehow, she manages to get the prince and live happily ever after.
I prefer the full story of Snow White, where the stepmother tries to strangle and poison the foolish girl who keeps falling for the same old trick.
I simply love the story of The Six Swans, where upon discovering that her evil stepmother has enchanted her brothers, the heroine/princess has to make great sacrifices, not speaking or laughing for years until she is done weaving six sweaters made out of starwort in order to save her six brothers (for those who don’t know the story, it is worth looking up because it is so very lovely and tragic all at once).
In short, I love the fairytales the way they were meant to be told—filled with darkness, hardship, heartbreak and loss. Call me crazy, but this darkness is my favorite part of all the original fairytales out there.
So what is it exactly that makes me like this seemingly creepy aspect of the fairytales?
Life, and in more recent years, my yoga practice.
Seriously, if there is one thing my practice has taught me it is that life is filled with ups, downs, twists and turns, light and dark (just like the real fairytales).
And one cannot exist (or be a full story) without the other.
Every time I find myself in pigeon pose, for example, my body seems to embark on a fairytale of its own, one in which an evil sorceress has decided to bewitch my hips, making them hard and unyielding. Pain and heartbreak take up residence within them in such a manner that every time I try to access them, open them, or even think about them, they scream out in pain and make me suffer.
And so the curse takes root within me, and there is only one way to break the spell: To step on my mat every day and to allow every moment to carry me wherever it may need to, even when it may feel as though I was going to break into a million pieces.
In fact, this seemingly evil pigeon spell’s counter is the ability to be open to grace every day, moment by moment; unlike most “spell-breakers,” it is not a one-time fix—like that of a prince kissing me tenderly.
Oh no, this spell needs to be broken every day, until such a time comes where I am able to see the pain as it truly is, a blessing and not a curse; a day when, with an act of true love, an act of kindness and compassion, I am able to change my entire world.
Every time I step on my mat, a new fairytale is being written just for and about me.
Every time I invert, I am as brave as a knight facing a dragon. Any time I try a new arm balance, I find that I am as incredibly strong as Merida, climbing to the very top of the mountain simply to drink some water because it is so much fun.
All the time I spend breathing allows the child empress within to breathe new life into Fantasia. All the hurdles I have to jump, whether it is recovering from a new injury, keeping my ego on place, or simply moving when my body feels as though it were stuck in the mud, I become Atreyu, the brave warrior who is prepared to do whatever it takes to save his world.
And the times I discover something new about myself, the times I can see myself exactly as I am—with all my flaws and my gifts, with all my light and dark—I am Sebastian, staring into the mirror of truth.
The practice has taken me on an incredible journey every time I have unrolled my mat. It has allowed me to see pain, heartbreak and fear as a blessing.
It has broken down my barriers and left me completely vulnerable, just like Peter Pan when his heart is broken at the thought of losing Wendy forever.
And the thing about this particular vulnerability is that it changes who you are.
It leaves you open to life in all of its forms. It allows you to see that love can change even the most horrid curse into a blessing. And it allows you to realize that all you go though, even if it is terrifying and dangerous (like walking through the dark forest at night with nowhere to go, nothing to eat or drink, and no place to hide from evil witches and goblins) is not only necessary to help you grow but beautiful in its own right.
If I were to simply step on my mat and suddenly gain all the strength, calm, balance, breath control and focus that I needed for yoga, there would be no point in me even trying.
But the fact that inside of me there is the potential for an infinite amount of possibilities that can only be reached through hard work, dedication, awareness, and an unwavering faith that all is exactly as it should be moment to moment, that simple reality makes every second on my mat magical and so very worth it—even if those seconds burn like hell, make me cry, or make me see things differently.
That is what I like about the practice—those moments when I want to quit, to lose faith and to give up, the moments where my ego takes over and tells me I am not good enough—those are the moments that make my practice shine, the moments that take my soul, body and mind to a whole new level.
Those are the moments in fairytales and in life that really change it all.
Without a witch there is no spell, and without a spell, there is no happy ending. What’s more, without a heart-breaking journey, there is no triumph, no victory, no glory, no adventure and no chance for true love to grow.
But the fact that the darkness comes and puts us through the ringer only allows our light to shine brighter when we give ourselves the opportunity to move through the muck, to be aware and not to cave in and despair.
So, the next time you hear a true fairytale being told, or a particular asana is driving you insane and you find yourself cringing in disgust, pain or horror; or, the next time you want to say, “This is too dark. I’d rather stick to the sunny part of it all,” stop and see the true value of the darkness in the tale.
Because the darkness isn’t there to terrify you and it isn’t there to traumatize and scar you for life. It is there to help you grow and make you braver, gentler, more aware and more loving. It is there to create an infinite realm of light and beauty around you.
So sit back and listen to the tale the way it was meant to be told and I promise you will never see things the same way again.
“If you are going through hell, keep going.” ~ Winston S. Churchill
Falling in love with yoga was Sapha Arias‘s destiny from the second she stepped onto her mat for the first time in 2008. From this moment on, Sapha began to study as much as she could about yoga, researching and reading endlessly. In this search for knowledge and growth, she realized her practice was more than just asana; it was a direct route to self-discovery and connectivity to every aspect of her self. It was at this point that Sapha began a deeper journey into the heart of yoga and the ability to open up to grace. Feeling joyous about having found the gift of yoga, Sapha feels deeply called to share this practice, and its many lessons with others, and completes her 200 hrs yoga teacher certification with Lex Gillan at The Yoga Institute of Houston Texas in 2011. Sapha is now a vinyasa yoga teacher at Cherry Blossom Yoga in Spring, Texas, Houston Yoga & Ayurvedic Wellness Center in Cypress, Texas and Lifetima lake Houston in Humble, Texas. She remains forever the seeker and the student of this practice and wants nothing more than to share the gift of yoga and all its lessons with the world.
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Assistant Ed: Josie H.
Ed: Bryonie Wise