There is a true natural beauty in things not going to plan. The surprise and sometimes wonderment that follow a plan gone wrong reminds me that I’m not all-knowing and that there is a bigger world at play beyond just me.
Recently my practice has had to take a bit of a back seat because work has been crazy and just not lent itself to any further energy exertion and early mornings. This has meant on the days I do go to the shala and practice, I often arrive pretty tired and thinking I’ll only practice Primary series. Feeling stiff and heavy, I prep myself mentally for a hard, wooden practice thinking that the twists, balances and deep stretches will all be a struggle today and that’s ok.
I’m slowly teaching myself not to chastise myself for the days or weeks I do less than normal, as long as I’m doing my best at looking after me. This in itself is unexpected because I’ve always resented my job(s) for getting in the way of my yoga practice and not allowing me to fully focus on it with all of my energy and will, every day, Mysore style. Of course this is entirely unrealistic because a stay in Mysore doesn’t include work and the whole environment is centred around yoga.
Back to my leaden practice now though. I start my sun salutations with heavy arms, what feels like no bandha engagement and log-like legs. Every reach up to the sun and forward fold down makes me think I shouldn’t have eaten that pasta last night and why haven’t I at least been doing my usual desk stretches and twists?! Sitting at a desk or on a train for a meeting has been my position for most of the past week!
As I keep working through the postures, my body becomes warmer and I can feel some of the tightness release and my focus change. Like magic, those pesky hard postures are suddenly attainable; I can bind in BOTH sides of Marichyasana D, and with assistance my legs go behind my shoulders and head with less resistance in Supta Kurmasana. How very unexpected!
As I warm up more and more, the tension in my back and hips loosen slightly and I reach the last posture of Primary series. Now, do I have the energy and mental focus to start Intermediate? Or do I stick with my plan of only Primary? Pretty quickly, I feel the draw to just keep going and so I do. I worry my tight left hip will start playing up though and the niggle around my ribs will ping a pain as I get into the deep backbends, but they don’t. As soon as I feel a twinge, I focus, go slowly and try to create some balance around the body so the bad habit of creating a pinch is released and my strength is evenly distributed.
And then just like that, I’ve grabbed my ankles in backdrops and I’m done with my practice, finding myself starting the closing sequence. An hour and a half after not really being able to touch the floor in a forward fold, I’ve completed my practice and with lightness and calm focus. These asana practices aren’t every day or even every week, they’re the times we always want to have but as in life, not every day is a rosy day.
Asana practice is so reflective and such a metaphor for life that in this instance, it helped me in realising that some situations start with difficulty but end in smiles. It’s not all doom and gloom even though it feels impossible to think it’ll get easier or better. Whilst you are of course an important role in your own life, that doesn’t mean that you know exactly how things will go for you. So many other elements have a role to play and contribute to the outcome, many of these are subtle and unconscious, with the majority not being within your own control. A balance of surrender and trying your best is key but no doubt hard to find, but that’s where yoga practice is a great teacher.
We can build our own paths but I’m a firm believer that it’s only the initial outline we draw. We turn up and start the design but with some influences and situational changes along the way, the final result can often be very different from our first idea. Being adaptive and less rigid is key in today’s world, and really the only way to adopt those things is by accepting that you don’t know everything or know best. You’ll be happier for it too.