Need, I say more?
Oh this pose and I have had an intimate relationship for many months now.
But... let me back up to about a year ago.
Sometime last summer I started the 365 day handstand challenge. It seemed like a great project and a fun way to learn how to balance in handstand. Fast forward a few months in, and I began to experience some shoulder and back pain. I continued my daily practice, mostly flow based with an attempt to maintain balance throughout the week. I tried to practice with a different focus over a week's span. Backbends a few days, core and inversions on others sprinkled with more restorative practices on days where my body called for a break.
Then came summer holidays and I began to crave a more established and intuitive yoga practice that could be done anywhere, whether at home, or on the road. A practice that would be less creative yet still challenging. A practice that would be balanced, rigorous and complete.
It was then that I stumbled upon Kino MacGregor's Intro to Ashtanga video on myyogaonline where I first heard her lecture on the power of the Ashtanga practice. Now I had practiced Ashtanga before, my first exposure to an Ashtanga class was about 3 years ago. Having practiced Iyengar and Vinyasa flow on and off for a few years I did not understand why Ashtanga seemed like it was designed to be particularly tortuous to practitioners, specifically those with "stiff" hips.
What is up with all those jump backs anyway?
"No," I thought, "my body is not meant to move in this way."
It was not until I heard Kino's words both in her intro video and her book combined with establishing a daily Ashtanga practice that I began to realize the real power behind the practice. The power of the practice truly cannot be transmitted merely by words, but only directly experienced through a daily practice.
So I decided to try and practice primary series at home for about a month. Afterwards, I found a led class at a local studio which I've begun to attend a few times a week.
This time, my impression of the practice and understanding was different. I was more in tuned to why the series is set with specific postures, layered one upon each other, the next one more complex, like a recipe specifically designed to open AND strengthen the body.
I was more ready to be serious with this relationship. No longer was I just flirting with the practice, it was time to go steady. Like, real steady.
I have heard from my teachers that the practice is like any relationship. It has it's ups and it's downs. There is the honeymoon phase when you fall head over heels, giddy with excitement, especially as a pose begins to unfold itself.
Then the honeymoon is over and you realize that yes, this is a whole lot of f*%kin work and you'd rather hit the snooze button and go back to bed. You feel sore in spaces you didn't know existed. You may feel exhausted every day. You may experience pain, anguish, frustration and some moments where you think you "get it."
This practice has tested my limits and continues to do so every day. It has begun to feel like an anchor, the routine of waking up early every day setting the tone. It is the time where I can nurture myself so that I can be more patient in caring for my family, a whole other practice within of itself.
The practice tests your patience, not just once or twice a week, but every single day. It took me a few months to bind in Mari C (though I am still infinitely refining this asana) and immediately my ego said, ok just a few more months and D is coming.
Tsk, tsk, tsk my body says back to me... you need to to let go of agendas, timelines and expectations. There have even been times I have had to stop trying the pose. For a month my knee told me to do the modification. Non-attachment has become a visceral practice.
Along these months of attempting Marichyasana D and feedback from multiple teachers, all of who have given me so much to work with I also gained feedback that began to stick in my head.
"Your torso is long and your arms are short."
As I mentally made a face palm, I thought "ok, well NO WONDER WHY it's so HARD and I can't do it!"
I began to connect the difficulty of the pose to some physical defect in the body.
But as I was sitting in Kino's workshop last weekend and another student stated the same thing: "long torso, short arms" Kino's reply was surprising.
"Somewhere in this world - someone with the same proportions has figured it out."
Well there goes my excuse for being lazy and half heartedly attempting the pose every day.
Kino's words continue to resonate in my head this past week as I approach Marichyasana D. I continue to remind myself to stay calm and to approach the pose breath by breath. I also hear her saying "let go of long torso, short arms. It's like saying I have red hair so I can't drop back."
Or I have short toes so I can't balance on one leg, or my legs are too long so I can't pick up and jump back.
You get the point. :)
Letting go of my distorted thoughts on body proportions has helped me breathe easier into the pose even if the bind doesn't happen easily every day. It's allowed me to also cultivate more compassion towards myself as anxiety bubbles up to the surface in Mari A, B and C. It's allowed me to breathe and relax my shoulders instead of tensing up as I twist.
Finding the balance between practicing with compassion versus not pushing beyond one's current limits is a constant practice. While it is eye opening to be uniquely tied in to your body's specific proportions, practice caution in getting caught up in some bullshit story you've built up about your practice.
Be aware of the stories you continue to build up around you - often times they may not really reflect what is truly happening. The mind works in funny ways.
Proportion distortion. Thanks for reading yogis and feel free to comment!