“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender… that is strength.”
– Mahatma Gandhi –
One of the most common things you might probably hear your teacher tell you during class is, “When you feel like you’ve gone too far, know that you can scale back or take a child’s pose.” It got me thinking about the opposite. How about when your teacher asks you to hold a little longer, how long is too long ? Or maybe when exploring and moving deeper into an asana, how deep is too deep into the pose?
If you’ve been practicing for a longer period of time it tends to change how you approach poses. At least that’s how it feels in my case. It feels like since you’ve gotten so familiar with your body, you already know which days are perfect to stay in chapasana or when you can hold a handstand for a second longer. When things have become so “defined”, how does your practice change from there?
I had a conversation with my YogaWorks Teacher Trainer – David Kim, a couple of weeks ago and the question I just had to ask him was, “What do you tell students to encourage them to stay longer in a pose?” He said, ” I tell them to observe what they’re feeling. Is it really pain or is it just discomfort? If it is discomfort, can you sit with the discomfort a little bit longer?”.
As we practice, sometimes our minds can go on overdrive. There are sequences and certain poses that bring up lots of questions, thoughts, comments, compliments, even insults… and it just seems to get magnified a thousand fold. You begin to question, what’s making me hold this pose? Is it my ego? What am I really feeling? And why am I feeling this way? What am I trying to prove to myself by staying or by backing off? With all these questions coming up, how do you deal with it?
We’ve grown so accustomed with just sticking to what’s familiar, comfortable, and what makes us feel safe that we’ve forgotten the complete opposite of the spectrum. Those moments where we’ve been tested or been pushed to an edge that we’ve been avoiding simply because it’s not pleasant at all. But do we even understand what made it so unpleasant in the first place and why have we been avoiding it so passionately?
It’s made me wonder about the limitations and capabilities of my own body, with what I’ve identified with for so long that it might have hindered any form of growth or change in me. David said, “We are not our bodies. This thing that we identify with the most is in reality, not us. There’s something that’s constant and it’s not the body.”
My mindset has changed a little bit since that conversation. When faced with something I suddenly struggle with, I take a step back to see how best to deal with the situation. If my first impulse is to back off, I check if it’s fear of pain or just the fear of discomfort in what is happening. And if it is discomfort, maybe I can stay in it a bit longer and see what comes up from there.
That’s what my teacher David taught me and admittedly, it is still an ongoing process. He taught me to sit, be still and observe what I’m feeling…. to stay a little longer and figure out what it is that I’m really facing, both physically and emotionally. Today, I’m learning to stay a little longer in the discomfort and find out more about where I really am. And in that discomfort, my yoga has turned into something raw, confronting and new all over again.
There’s so much to learn about yourself when you stay. There are things about you that you cannot and should not escape. Maybe certain issues (tightness, fear, insecurity or denial…) you’ve been avoiding will only go away once you’ve acknowledged it and accepted that it is there. We’re so used to running away from things that we can’t actually run away from.
Maybe staying will take me into a much deeper understanding of myself. Maybe if I stay here long enough I’ll learn to be more accepting, more honest and a little more loving of myself and what I’m facing now. Maybe I’ll change and it will be a pretty good change. If I manage to find the courage to stay and deal with what’s uncomfortable then hopefully, maybe… that will teach me to stay present and enjoy moments that are actually pretty darn good too.
Andi Bañez is a registered certified yoga teacher. She teaches FNR, vinyasa flow, vinyasa music nights at Urban Ashram Manila. Andi loves to dance, travel and eat Click here to know more about Andi.