Two Birds, One Mat

Yoga has made me strong. Strong enough to do a plank on a plank. Thus I love yoga.

I love yoga.  I love the way it centers my mind, the way it brings me in tune with my body.  I love the flexibility and strength I find.  Most of all, I think I like the challenge because yoga is not easy.

In my early days, I approached each class with a feeling of trepidation.  I loved how I felt and the strength and flexibility I built, but yoga isn’t easy.  I was absolutely terrified in my first yoga class mostly because I didn’t want to make an ass out of myself in front of all the beautiful people.  Any anxiety I had was quickly waylaid by a good instructor and the fact there was a great diversity in skill and ability level within the class.  I was taught not to focus on my fellow classmates but to focus on myself.  What a concept.

So last night I ventured off to a small advanced class, not because I am advanced mind you but because it fit my schedule and I have long since given up any last shred of humility when it comes to yoga.  I am there to work.  It won’t always be pretty.  In fact, it usually won’t be as I am neither flexible nor graceful, but I am determined.  I will inevitably shake, waver and fall during warrior III.  I cannot grab my ankles in bow and I have only recently mastered moving into pigeon without grunting.  But I push myself each time to go a little deeper, stretch a little farther and push a little harder.

The advanced class started off very well.  Things were bending, things were stretching, things were balancing pretty darned nicely.

Enter the birds.  First the crane then the bird of paradise.

This is the crane:

A very lithe and flexible guy friend of mine with superb balance demonstrated this at Super Bowl.  Last night was the first time I attempted the pose.  I thought for sure I would just be hanging out in some sort of squat sort of leaning on my elbows but as it turns out, I had a much better result:  three points:  both palms and the lightest of pressure on the first two toes on my right foot.  I am actually impressed I made it that far, though I will admit there were several shaky moments.  At one point I started praying not to fall over because I was certain I would be like a bowling ball rolling through the studio, knocking classmates over.  My prayers were answered.

When the next feather related pose came up, I was feeling pretty confident.  After all, I have some pigeon skills and I had just surprised the hell out of myself with the whole crane thing.  What was one more bird?  How tough could it be?

As it turns out, very tough.  The pose?  Bird of paradise.  It sounds so beautiful, so serene and to be honest, those two or three girls who were able to do this were absolutely beautiful.  No words I offer can do it justice, so here is a video.

Imagine coming out of Warrior III and directly into this. My intermediate yoga self took one look at this and immediately launched into a whole extended hand to big toe thingy, which by the way when I do it, looks nothing like this photo. I’ve seen myself in the mirror. It’s like part tree/part flamingo/part crazy fat chick trying not to fall over.

But back to the bird of paradise…It’s not that I am not willing to try the bird of paradise but I am nowhere near the level of flexibility needed to get there. Yet. Now I have a new goal: achieve the bird of paradise without falling over. Let’s consider this a long term goal. A very long term goal.

Despite my inability to get into anything remotely resembling the bird of paradise, I consider last night a success. I felt great during and after. I felt challenged but also very centered and strong.

And now I feel nice and stretched out for my run with the group tonight. Even better!