I remember fondly that moment last week when I felt smooth and sleek during practice. Wednesday night I felt tight, compact, curmudgeonly and stuck. First of all, we had a substitute teacher, which tends to rankle my feathers. Who dares alter my plan? But she had a kind and open face and was warm and excited to teach.
My mind battled with my, I don’t know, other mind through most of the class – while my body held on to its tension with a mortal fear. I caught sight of my body reflected in the side window, and that only compounded the battle. I looked how I felt: tight, stocky, and angry.
I tried to breathe through the vinyasa – which, my mind made sure to note, I thought was too fast and rushed. I tried to breathe into the postures – which were held too long or not long enough. I did lose myself in the moment a couple of times, smiling at the recognition that, somehow, the practice itself had broken through the armor for just a brief second before my brow furrowed and I held my breath again like I was deep sea diving.
I white-knuckled my way through most of the class, until, toward the end, we were led to attempt a posture I have never seen in person. I tried to find a photo online, but I’ve had no luck (feel free to send me one if you can find it!). And I don’t remember the name of it either, so I’ll just have to do my best to describe it.
It’s an arm balance, with the head and bum acting as counter weights while the legs rise up off the earth and balance straight out to one side. To me, it looked more like a feat of a seasoned Cirque du Soleil performer than a pose for a basic Hatha class. And, I have to say, my jaw dropped.
It was impressive to watch the instructor do this pose – her body lifting itself up gracefully, as if there were no such thing as gravity, or office jobs. But I was equal parts pissed off, too. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought, as she led us into the pose. It starts by getting your leg out of the way. Apparently you do this by lifting it up over your shoulder and letting it just hang out there. Right. Because, you know, that’s no biggie or anything.
Of course, I wasn’t going to just sit there and ogle. I had to give it a shot. And this is where I found that resistance is useless. My leg, what, this leg here?, was not going to just hang out over my shoulder. I hunched and I scrunched. I tucked and huffed and puffed. I looked very serious. And very ridiculous.
And I had to laugh. How could I not laugh? I had to let go of my idea of what the class should be. Of what my practice should be. I HAD to let go, how could I hold onto it? I had no choice but to relinquish control. There was no way I was getting into that pose. I may not EVER get into that pose.
My practice was not going to be perfect that night. And once I accepted that – that this night was just one night, just one and a half tiny little hours, and that it didn’t matter what it looked like, and that this was all just practice, all just practice – then, perhaps, I could enjoy it a little bit. Relax, let go, just a little bit. And maybe dance. Just a little.