I “tocked” today.
It still feels a bit surreal. I remember every moment and at the same time, I can’t believe that it happened.
I woke up only after 6 hours of sleep…in bed by nine, woke up at 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Admittedly, I was more preoccupied by waves than by yoga…there is word of a new NW swell coming our way this weekend, probably up to head high. I was planning on yoga in the early morning before work, and then surfing after work as I get off earlier on Thursdays and Fridays.
My body was stiff and my stomach felt queasy for some reason when I showed up for practice. I felt a small kink in my neck and hip, and for the umpteenth time, I wondered why I continued this crazy practice. Maybe you’re getting too old for this, a voice/thought whispered in my mind as I tried to straighten my back in Surya Namaskara A, trying to get that kink out of my hip. You will be 45 this year. This is crazy shit for a 45 year old body.
But I’m not really 45! I argued back silently at this critical voice. I’m fitter and healthier (mentally and physically) than I was at 25 or even 35!
I decided to just do Second today and decided to take it one pose at a time. I decided not to plan on tic-tocs, that was just too much pressure. I figured that I will just let my body decide for me when I reach that point. Pashasana was stiff, which did not bode well. I struggled a bit in Kapotasana, and had to work hard to catch heels. But by Eka Pada Sirsasana, I felt a new energy flow through my body, and felt strong in Karandavasana.
When I reached the seven headstands, I thought of my friend Julie’s comment a while ago — that someday I would find them soothing. When I was struggling with them — inversions are so scary still! — I couldn’t imagine those headstands feeling anything but soothing. But, compared to the scary unknown of tic-tics, I strangely felt calmed by the headstands. Who would have thought???
Then it was time for backbends and dropbacks. I shuffled to the back of my mat, getting ready for handstand and tic-tocs. I had enough energy left. Andrew glanced over, but instead of walking quickly to my side to help, he assisted another student. I remember trying to toc and lifting my legs over my head last week, curving my back like a bow, and almost feeling as if I could suspend my hips in the air. I figured that I could at least try to do that. Just start with what you know, a voice said to me. And I know I can at least do that.
I ticked and landed my feet onto the mat. Lifted up as high as I could, three times, I could see my feet lift over my head, but gravity won. Andrew was on my right, helping another student. “You are close,” he said. “Try again.”
I ticked a second time, and pressed my arms firmly into the ground. My feet lifted higher, my back curved even more, but still gravity won. Tried three times and landed in defeat. I stood up, and Andrew said, “You’re very close.”
I said, “I know, I feel like…” and I couldn’t describe the feeling, but curved my hand to symbolize the curve of my back and he nodded, in an unspoken understanding. “Yes,” he said. “You’re getting more into the right positioning.”
Sweat doesn’t pour out like it used to, but by now, I was pretty tired and sweaty. Andrew stepped aside and said, “I’m not going to help you anymore. You are very close, and you are getting the movement right…so there’s no point in me trying to help you.” He said this with a kind smile, and I understood. I felt a deep quietness in the shala.
Well, it seems that I have no other choice other than to try again. I set my hands down onto the mat, and tried to remember the feeling of arching my back like a bow, my feet above my head. And suddenly I remember my other teacher, Kiran at Tim’s shala, pressing down on my back…and how that pressure helped me so much. I imagined Kiran pressing her hand on my hand, her voice saying, Move your head back towards my hand.
I mustered all the force and strength I had left, and in a mad, quick flurry, saw my feet lift over my head. My legs were weightless, and suddenly they dropped to the floor. I was standing up in disbelief, and saw Andrew say, “You did it!”
My friends — Nathalie, Jessica, Susan, Laura — were cheering and smiling. “You did it!” They cried. The kind warmth in their eyes touched me; I know they have watched me struggle with this for almost seven to eight months. I mustered a “Yay!” and everyone laughed. It was the best feeling in the world, sort of like a child-like lightness of being and spirit.
Exhaustion set in quickly. I barely got through work, and almost did not go surfing. But the waves were calling, and it has been three days since I’ve been out in the salt water. I decided to paddle out for a bit at The Secret Spot. The wind died down, the sun was beginning to set, and I actually caught a few fun waves despite my tiredness. I thought of the magical toc this morning…which, in reflection, feels a bit like that magical wave you catch, when you do not expect it, when the other surfers miss it — but you are the lucky one! And it is the most beautiful and thrilling feeling you have as you head towards shore, as the sunlight glows through the blue, translucent face of the wave.
You don’t know how exactly the magic happened, but it did. And that’s all that matters.