“Relaaaxxx” the muffled sounds of the soft and soothing voice of my yoga teacher seep, somehow, through the tangled and awkward mess of me into my ears.  I can feel my stomach, which is almost around my face, vibrating as I start to chuckle to myself over the utterly ridiculous fabulousness of Ashtanga.

I’m venturing into pretzel territory, abandoning stick-men illustrations about 5 poses back and feeling renewed vigour and enthusiasm for a practice that has both rewarded and punished me with equal measure for a good couple of years.  I was elbow deep in lotus this morning, breathing in and breathing out under my teacher’s instructions as he rocked me backwards and forwards, like I was a giant rugby ball, until I picked up enough momentum to propel myself full circle and raise an eyebrow, “I’m to lift myself up now???  Are you sure??”

I catch an encouraging, and empathetic smile from my neighbour and lean forwards, onto my hands, legs so tightly entwined around my upper arms that I’ve lost sense of which foot is from what side, and the blood circulation has become a little bit strained.   I try once.  Further forwards he says….I try….further forwards he says again….I try….further forwards….I can’t!  I can’t!  It goes against every self-preservation instinct in my body and consciousness.

And this is what Ashtanga, for me at least,  seems to be all about.  There is no comfort zone.  You are continuously looking over the edge.

yoga1I hit a bit of a barrier for an extended period of time.  Wrestling with Bhujapadasana for so long that it was beginning to feel like a long-term, monogamous relationship.  Needless to say, I started flicking through Matthew’s “Ashtanga As It Is” to see what was next.  Will I ever get there?  Or am I destined to hobble about with my shoulders between my legs for the rest of my yogic life?

As with every challenging posture, it isn’t until I move onto the next one that I come to terms with, or fully understand, the lessons that had to be learnt and the attachments that had to be let go on an emotional and psychological level before I can move on in body.

And when you do….move onto the next pose….there’s a whole other layer of discovery.  You develop new strengths, new flexibility, another part of your anatomy you hadn’t paid much attention to, suddenly feels very present.  Sensations of heat, of vibrations, of resistance, and eventually relaxation, reverberating through various joints, muscles, nerves and innards.  Emotions.  Thoughts.  You face fears and anxieties.  Burst into laughter, want to weep – there’s no telling what’s around the corner….you just have to trust.  You just have to surrender.

I love yoga.  With each day that passes, every practice enjoyed or endured, savored or missed, I’m learning something.  I’m venturing deeper into a place I can’t describe.  You don’t need to.  The shala is a safe place.  There’s no judgment or hidden agenda.  It’s just a space with wooden floors where you can explore and discover, and rediscover.

In moments like these, when I take the time to reflect on what a massive influence this beautiful practice has had, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and love to the many teachers who have shared and provided guidance always unconditionally and with such kindness.

Thank you x

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