Zig Zag Lines
I’m not sure about you but my friends and I have always been the types to try our honest hardest, put full faith into something and when it doesn’t turn out as planned, we’re left pretty disheartened and feeling a little lost. We all know the phrase “don’t get your hopes up” but we’re now in an age where we’re encouraged to be positive and think that things can go our way if we put all of our effort into it.
Following on from last week’s yoga post about non-attachment, this feeling I’m explaining which I’m pretty sure most out there can identify with, is attachment in its most obvious form. We want something, we put in the work to get there and then become emotionally and mentally attached to the journey and the expected results. When it’s put as plainly as this, it’s obvious that it’s not a good idea but theory and practice can be two very different worlds.
I had a thought this week during my yoga practice that I have been “stuck” on the same posture for nearly two years now. Much of that is down to my very inconsistent practice last year and an injury but nevertheless, it’s been two years. Ashtanga yoga teaches you to surrender to your teacher and trust in them that they know what’s best. I mean you really have no choice because you can’t start a new posture if you don’t know how to do it and more than likely, will end up hurting yourself in front of the room if you tried.
I used to want to advance and get the new postures for my own progress and ego I guess. This then changed when I just wanted a shorter practice (full primary and nearly half of intermediate series means my practice is around 1hr 45min before the closing sequence and rest - stamina building!!) - I just wanted to know I was on my way to reducing my practice so I wouldn’t be so tired for my day ahead and wouldn’t need to rush any of it. A habit that was taking my zen away at the end of each practice - sounds a bit counterproductive!
I would try again and again to nail every posture every day and if I (inevitably) didn’t, I would curse myself. I couldn’t understand why my leg wouldn’t go behind my head like before, or why I couldn’t twist and bind my arms as easily. On the days I would do quite well, I didn’t understand why my teacher wasn’t giving me the next posture. My thoughts became increasingly negative, focusing on “it’s not fair” to “there’s just something wrong with you, you’re not supposed to be here”.
These thoughts and feelings can definitely be echoed in my life off the mat too. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who expects instant gratification or is unrealistic but I clearly am in ways. We’ve been taught that x + y = z and that that path doesn't deviate or change. As we grow up, no one really tells you that progress isn’t a straightforward upward curve but rather an irregular zig zag full of backward steps and strange leaps forward.
The patience you’re forced to develop with yourself and those around you is testing. The ego kicks in, in either a damaged form of low self-esteem or an inflated way thinking that you know best. As with many things, it’s the way you manage it that speaks volumes. I personally don’t think it’s a bad thing for these feelings to come up - we are emotional humans after all - but it’s the actions that follow which are key for progression. How can I make this situation a little more comfortable? What is within my space to change?
It’s always a really tough challenge for me as I often think I’ve improved my ability to make the best of a situation because of the last time I had to, but the next time is still a blow and that surprises me. I also forget how slow it can be for that change to happen. It always happens but it’s up and down along the way.
Nowadays, for my rather long practice, I’ve learnt to embrace it and actually feel more uncomfortable with the thought of changing it. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be. This attitudes also helped because I managed to physically change a few parts of my life to accommodate the long practice. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to progress and in no way am I this level-headed about some difficulties off the mat right now, but at least I know I’ll get there if I can adjust my mindset and change what I can.