Saturday, September 5, 2009

Learning from Weakness

Have you ever noticed how, on some days, you feel very strong, and on other days, you feel very weak? Sometimes I can attribute these various states to something I've eaten, how much sleep I've had, or something else obvious. On other days, the reasons allude me. Like yesterday.

I felt weak in my Iyengar yoga class with Nancy Footner at Friendship Yoga. I don't know why. Poses that I've worked on for a long time so they feel more solid and muscular suddenly felt strenuous again. I am hyperflexible but really need to work on muscle strength, and I don't know where all that hard-won muscle strength went. I was like jelly. So of course, Nancy chose me to demonstrate Ardha Chandrasana.

We had just finished doing standing poses focusing on the hip and shoulder and my muscles were already feeling rubbery and uncertain, so as I went up into the pose, my legs and arms trembled with the effort. Still, I could feel how the adjustments were crucial: drawing the shoulder down and back, drawing the muscles of hip of the standing leg down and back, bringing the power and strength to the back of the body to open up the front. I could feel it. I just couldn't do it. Or, I could do it in a way, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. And I don't even want to talk about my ability to balance.

Today I'm pretty sore, but in a good way. I don't feel so weak today, either. Maybe yesterday's weakness was because of taking a break this summer, or the day's humidity, or my hormone levels (whatever they may have been), or just because the ragweed is pollinating and I'm a little bit allergic. Maybe there was some emotional or spiritual reason for it. Whatever it was, I kept going through the class and trying as hard as I could, not trying to figure out the reason, just working with the muscles. I feel better for it. My middle back had felt tweaked yesterday before class, and as always, the class put me all back into line. Today, I can still feel, in my body, what I need to do in that pose.

Nancy once said, "You have to go through the hamstrings to get to the soul," and I think about that a lot. Emotion, intellect, spirituality--it all begins in the body. The body is ground zero, and that is where the work begins. The body is your workshop, the framework for a garden that can grow beautiful flowers, but not without first laying down the soil.

I guess I know what I'll be practicing this week.

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