I’m supposed to find my swag in yoga.
Really, I never knew what it was or where it was or even that I was supposed to be looking for it.
What I was looking for was how to drop into a back bend from standing, and the instructor was doing his best to help.
I was given lots of direction to find this pose. I was told to look to my quads for my foundation, to my core for my strength, to my straight arms for my landing. Sometimes, it felt like I was almost there, and other times it felt incredibly far away.
One night, I was surely lost. I needed lots of help going back and even more coming up. Any progress I had made in the past months of trying seemed to have disappeared.
“Where’s your swag?!” the instructor demanded.
The practice room was hot, and I was a little dizzy from the drop backs, so I just looked at him and remembered silently that I knew about swag. It was the goods in the gift bags at celebrity events! But what did that have to do with the drop backs?
It was obvious he couldn’t hear me in my head because he looked back at me and told me what was what.
“You don’t know what swag is?” He didn’t even comment on the gift bags but instead did a little strut in place and announced, “That’s your swag! You gotta get your swag back!”
This insightful instructor has a good sense of humor, but he wasn’t joking. This swag was some serious stuff, and I was supposed to learn something here. Something that would help me drop back, and something that would help me drop in.
So here’s what I’ve learned so far. Swag is the equivalent of confidence, and I can’t just reach in a bag and find it. It’s about self-belief, the kind you have to have in order to strut in place. It lives in the core, and sometimes it’s home and sometimes it’s not. And, sometimes, a deep breath can bring it back.
And like with the practice itself, it takes work. I have to cultivate this self-belief, and I think the yoga poses help me do that. We’re taught that the poses are like any obstacles, and how we face them is how we get through them.
So, I learn a lot about myself on the mat, and such understanding makes room for some self-compassion which, in turn, nurtures my confidence.
It’s this direct relationship between my practice and my confidence that helps me progress. When my confidence is up, I sail through my practice. And, when there’s no wind in my sails, I’m a little at sea and have to work all the more on the mat.
At one point, I injured my hand being careless in the drop backs. It has since healed, but it’s made me shy away from practicing them. Even so, the other night, I was back at it. And when the instructor stepped up to dip me back, I told him I was scared, even with his assist.
“Okay,” he said. “So let’s face that fear. Let’s do a Lion’s Breath together.”
He opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue and breathed out a loud, “Ahhhhhhhh!”
He didn’t know my swag was out for the evening, so I only opened my mouth for a little exhale.
“Come on!” he said.
I hate Lion’s Breath and told him so. It’s supposed to be a release of energy and heat, but it makes me feel self conscious. I think it’s the part about sticking out my tongue and making a ridiculously big noise. Who knew you had to be confident to do so?
It took four tries before I finally stuck out my tongue and matched his loud exhale.
And wouldn’t you know, that one breath brought my self belief right back home? It helped me lift my arms and, with an assist, gave me the confidence to drop right back and the same to rise right up again.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman
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