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July 1, 2015

How I Shifted my Yoga Practice on (& off) the mat.

side crow acadia - author's photo: Stacey Pierce-Talsma

I did it for the first time, and I didn’t even know I could!

I’ve been practicing yoga regularly over the last 7 years, and I have tried, failed and succeeded in many asanas.

Yes, I’m aware that achievement of asana is not the goal of yoga, however we all aspire to excellence in our practice, whether it’s our most excellent breath or our most excellent salamba sirsasana.

Life on the mat imitates real life. (Or is it vice versa? I can’t really tell anymore.) Just like in real life, there are things that naturally come easily to us, and there are also poses that come easily—those asanas we can move in and out of without much thought.

Then there are the poses we struggle through…

How many times did I practice kicking up, kicking up, kicking up—until my feet finally hit the wall (thud!) in my first handstand.

I wanted nothing more than to get upside down—to feel the full weight of my body on my hands as I flipped my perspective and my body orientation—but I had to work at it.

I completed preparatory poses (I never want to do “dolphin” again), and I practiced over and over again. I overcame fear—the fear of flight, the fear of getting my hips to balance over my hands and the fear that would come with a new perspective.

These poses that we struggle with, reflect the things we strive and work for in life—the things we don’t give up on. We practice, we fall and we kick up again. We know that if we keep going, we will achieve our goal.

And then there are those poses that surprise us—the ones we haven’t really practiced. The ones we didn’t know were possible, yet somehow we arrived at this space. We have prepared in our practice by gaining the strength, breath and flexibility needed. We were guided by teachers who asked us to try and who opened the door of possibility. This confluence of circumstances, preparation, readiness and guidance allows us to break down barriers and push into new territory.

Yet, it’s not all circumstance—our practice slowly builds us, opens us and changes us. All we need is that push to take a chance and invite in possibility.

The same is true off the mat.

How many times have we been surprised by achieving a goal we didn’t know was possible? Even if it wasn’t necessarily something we were striving for or working towards—our prior work, experience and mentorship allowed us to manifest an achievement we couldn’t have imagined was possible.

Afterwards, the world seems different…

My morning practice was amazing—but then, you know, I did it. When I went to work, I felt like everyone could tell. (Is she looking at me because she knows I did it?) I want to shout it from the rooftop, write a post, Instagram it or something! I have this whole new thing that’s now available to me, and I had no idea it was there—buried deep within.

It makes me wonder—what else is hiding in there? What other possibilities are waiting to take flight?

I’ve shifted now—in my practice.

I’ve lived through the contraction of core, the lengthening of hamstrings, the inner lift, the shifting of weight, the take-off, the flight and the brief fleeting thoughts of tumbling and smashing my face.

And I’ve shifted my life.

That project that I didn’t know I could do—like writing a post for elephant journal—maybe I’ll give it a try. Things I didn’t know I could do now seem within reach.

So let’s take more chances and say “yes” to more opportunities—what have we got to lose?

We might fall, and still have a most excellent practice—or we might succeed, and lift up into our first eka pada koundinyasana II.

Float on…

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Relephant Read:

4 Ways to Find Space in Any Yoga Pose.

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Author: Stacey Pierce-Talsma

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own.

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