Time seems to slow down when you go deeper into practice…
Now, edging more into Third, time really seems to slow down. I remember when I finished Primary after six months. But Galavasana took about 9 months…each pose gets a little bit harder, and takes a bit more time.
It really doesn’t matter how long it takes to “get” a pose. Time can be just a crude marker of a practice that is in of itself, timeless.
But within that time, such emotions can come up. I struggled in Eka Pada Bakasana A for nearly as long — 9 months, or about the time it takes to conceive and birth a baby. Finally understanding a difficult pose almost feels like the same process! I fell on my face a few times, got angry with my teacher, and most of all, got angry with myself. Why can’t I get this right??? I kept on wondering.
Andrew was able to hear my frustration and I think that helped a great deal. He told me how one day he just gave up hope of mastering the pose, and then Eka Pada Bakasana A (EPB A for short) came to him effortlessly. For a long time, I could not imagine this…how can one suspend all that weight up in the air?
He shared this revelation with me again after he had returned from India. I was still simmering in EPB A without much relief. During his absence, I had gone to another shala, but upon his return, I felt the pull to return to familiar faces and an old routine that felt right in my heart and mind. I still would have preferred a different space, but when I returned it felt like a coming back home…the prodigal ashtangi daughter has returned!
Two days ago (Sunday) I resigned myself to the fact that I may have to stay in this pose for as long as it took. Andrew told me that it wasn’t about achieving the next pose, it was where it took the mind; perhaps more importantly, the soul. So I focused on my breath, and thought about lightness. I didn’t worry so much about getting the pose right. Galavasana didn’t take as much effort, and then EPB A seemed to happen!! I lifted my head up on each side, somehow feeling that locus of energy within my sternum, full of lightness within the core. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Afterwards, Andrew said, “Hmm, your practice is much lighter today.” We laughed about it for a bit. “You know,” he said, “if you make it your meditation during your practice…it’s not just the physical that becomes light, the lightness will manifest elsewhere in your life, too. But if you put excess force into it, then that will come out too in other ways.” And that was the part that spoke so deeply to me. Grasping at what I wanted only made the desired thing more elusive, and the true point of practice became lost. I wanted to tap again into the lightness, that feeling of freedom, to go back to what the practice was really about. And I was willing to give it as much time as it took for me to truly understand it.
So yesterday (Monday), I took my time. I tried not to worry about the clock as much. I was still fighting a cold so things felt heavy as first. I remember trying to think “Light! Light!” and that didn’t work as well. Kapotasana hurt a little bit and I had to strain to catch heels. I thought to myself, Watch the breath. If it is slow and even, you’re good. If you’re panting and struggling, too much effort. So again it was attention to the breath that saved me….and made the practice a bit lighter. There was only a light sheen of sweat by the time I go to Karandavasana. Of course, the sweat comes pouring out the moment I start Third.
Still, Galavasana felt a bit floatier, and I lifted again in EPB A. I was able to suspend and hold my head above my mat, on both sides!! I finished and was about to do my backbends, when Andrew said, “Ida, wait. Do you know Eka Pada Bakasana B?”
“No,” I said. And of course, my heart leapt like a frog. Or maybe I felt more like a golden retriever, pink tongue out, tail wagging uncontrollably. Really?Really? New pose? Is this for real? Oh my gosh!
“Alright, wait,” he said. “I’ll come around and show you.”
A new pose always feels like a gift. I know it’s probably nothing that special for most, but for me, yesterday felt extra special, after nearly nine months of hard, ego-busting, excruciating work. It always seemed to work this way…time slowed down, sometimes when you least wanted it to happen, usually when you wanted something to happen quicker!! And it was usually in the moment of surrender and giving up that a breakthrough occurs. On that day, something in my heart settled and at the same moment, felt that something momentous had occurred. It was such a quiet moment, really. Time slowed down, and I was filled with gratitude.