It felt cranky, like an old wire, brittle and about to break if I pulled it any further.
To my surprise, my fingertips touched. My doubts like that old wire turned supple. I saw the tension, brought on by toxins of disbelief, soften.
I watched my teacher demonstrate the pose, the one where you reach your left hand straight up in the air and then slide it down your back, so your elbow rests gently against the back of your head. Next he teed his right arm out like the wing of a bird. I watched him turn it down, Then he slid his right hand around his rib cage and up his back to meet the left. He held it in Cow Face Bind.
Watching him, I was reminded of that cranky old wire. How I felt its tenseness in my shoulders. I could never do this bind, when the left hand slid down my back. It was fine when I reached my right hand down my back but it never worked on the left side.
It was the first time I had seen someone demonstrate the bind this way. I always had seen the instructors raise arms up to the sky and then swivel them around their spine like ribbons going round a maypole. But his motion was slow and deliberate. He took his time and his right arm went out like a wing, stretched out as if to shake out every old kink in it, before sliding it in to meet the other arm, which was resting down his spine.
Typically, I would have sat there and not tried the pose, knowing I could not do it. Feeling like I would break if I tried. But today, I wasn’t in the mood for doubt. I felt free to play, not guilty accepting my limitations. It was okay to try a different approach and if that didn’t work, if I could not achieve cow-face arms on the left side, I would not worry.
In my own moment, in my own style, I took my arms that felt like cranky old wires, raising first the left and then sliding it down between my shoulder blades. Then the right, out like a bird, dusting off its wing, spreading, searching. It is okay to roam to the uncharted territories up my spine. And as my right fingertips inched upward, I felt them touch the tips of my left fingers.
My doubt no longer made sense. I didn’t question how it had happened, or how long my fingertips would stay touching in this bind. I felt whole, balanced and symmetrical in this bind that I’d felt unable to try because I would break.
Those “I can’t do this” thoughts that poisoned my brain and made my arms hurt, broke in two like that old cranky wire. And I tossed its parts away, embracing something new. Its freedom, the yumminess of this playful place where I could experiment, try something new, and if, like the old wire, I broke, that was okay.
Sometimes when something feels impossible, all it takes is a new approach. The old one has not worked, so there is nothing to lose by trying something new. And much to my surprise, something I thought was broken was very much alive.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Photo: Rikki’s Refuge/Flickr
Editor: Jean Weiss