My Yoga Diary #2: Child’s Pose

childspose

Last time I wrote about a pose that comes quite easily to me, that helps me find my peace. This edition of my diary considers a pose that is one of the easiest to do, Balasana, or Child’s Pose, but can be deceptively challenging to practitioners who, like me, were quite overweight when they began their practice. For a fat person like me, it can be intimidating to walk into your first yoga class. Intellectually, I know everyone is critical of themselves, especially in a society like ours. Even thin people often don’t think they’re thin enough, or that they’re too thin. We’re all insecure about our appearance in some way. But the ‘classic’ image of someone who practices yoga 99.9% of the time is one of a slim, muscular, flexible female. While googling images for this post, there was one of an overweight person performing Child’s Pose, out of hundreds.

Although everyone I’ve met in yoga class has been kind and accepting, that first step is a tremendous one. And when a pose like Child’s Pose comes along, you think to yourself in relief, “Okay. I’ve got this.” Because it helps as a mental exercise to be able to accomplish at least one pose well, especially when you’re a beginning. Except that, no, this isn’t going to be easy at all. Because as soon as you crouch down and look between your legs, you realize that your thighs don’t touch your calves. It’s not easy to fold your body together when you’re overweight, to make yourself small enough that your forehead can touch the mat while your butt meets your heels. Let’s not even talk about taking a deep breath in this pose–your abdomen’s practically in your throat. And if you’ve got large breasts… Well. One of the good things about being a curvy girl *is actually a bad thing when doing this pose*!

All this to say that, at first, this pose hit me where it hurt, both psychologically and physically. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Ten years on from that first yoga class, I love the pose. It’s the clearest sign of my progress in my practice because, even though I’m still no one’s definition of skinny, the heels of my feet have now met my butt. Thighs and calves have a bit of a thing going on. My forehead and the mat are totally tight. Breathing is still a challenge, but I’m getting there. I can actually be comfortable in the pose now, release and give over to the powerful feeling of being small.

Submission. Like fat, it’s considered a negative in our society. A sign of weakness. A lack in your character. But that is, once again, the beauty of yoga. Because to be in Child’s Pose is mindful submission. It’s the yoga equivalent of standing in a valley and staring up at the river, the forest, the mountains, the sky, the immensity of nature, the world, the universe. It’s acknowledging the forces beyond our control and giving yourself over to them willfully. It’s admitting that you won’t always have the answer, know the right thing to do, be able to guide yourself through life without seeking help from others. You’re a seashell–small, but open. Ready for the ideas and insights to pour in.

It’s a humble pose. In the age of me, me, me, social media, reality TV, the selfie, entitlement, putting people on blast for taking even a half-step wrong, etc, we could all use a bit more humility. The opportunity to listen without judgment. To explore ideas different to our own patiently and respectfully. To open ourselves to learning instead of thinking we already know it all. *I* certainly need to be reminded of all these things on a regular basis, and that’s the reason why I’m constantly inspired while doing Child’s Pose.

If you practice, what does the Child’s Pose mean to you? Join me in a month for the next instalment of my yoga diary.

Namárië,
Selina

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My Yoga Diary #1: Triangle Pose

triangle

I’m what you might call a straight-shooter. Not a big sufferer of fools. The antithesis of anything New Age-related. Grounded in the here and now. I limit my fantastical journeys to my imagination and my writing. I’m also not much for fads or trends, in fashion, exercise, or otherwise. All this to say that I used to be a yoga cynic.

When yoga first became popular, there was no way to predict that it would outlast taebo or zumba or jazzercise. Celebs like Christy Turlington promoted it. All the Hollywood types were doing it. Even though it stemmed from an ancient tradition, to a laywoman’s eye it looked like just another appropriation of Asian culture (though I still think an argument can be made there). Until I took a class, that was.

I’m still not sure what led me to try it out. I’ve never really been a sporty person. I prefer solitary or autonomous forms of exercise that can be done outdoors: swimming, walking, biking. I’m gym-phobic as a rule, and am always looking for a more natural way to tone by body. Something about yoga must have appealed to me, but ten years on, I can’t remember what. All I know is that I love it.

My first yoga teacher, Joanne, would always start our classes off with an intention. Something to keep in mind while working our way through the day’s poses. As mentioned, I have a bit of a knee-jerk hatred of anything too esoteric (or ‘woo-woo’, as the kids say), but I thought this technique—of taking something from our day to day and working through it as we exercised—brought some of the airier yoga concepts down to earth.

I’ve also been astonished by how emotional one can become while practicing yoga. If you really devote yourself to learning the breath-control aspect, it can be very affecting on certain days or during trying periods of your life. Technique can help you through major and minor life events, such as when I used the controlled breathing to endure a 45-minute MRI scan or relax before delivering the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral.

For the past year, I have re-devoted myself to my practice. It has helped me through a great many highs and lows. Now, I’m not some size-zero nymph. I’m flexible, but not a contortionist. I still do beginner-level poses; I likely always will. I am not a yoga teacher or scholar. The following represents nothing but my personal thoughts and experience, which may not match your own.

But I find solace in the practice of yoga. The work involved in achieving each pose is both ongoing and fascinating. So I thought I would talk a bit about my own experience with each pose once a month, hopefully in a relatable sort of way (forgive me if I get a little too ‘woo-woo’ in the telling). This month, we’ll start with my favorite pose: trikonasana, or the triangle pose.

Triangle pose has always been easy for me, which can be dangerous. You can get sloppy with poses you’re adept at if you’re not careful. In yoga, you strive to be relaxed but engaged, and if that engagement lapses, then you derive no benefit from the pose. For me, the triangle pose is a reminder to always be present, to pay attention to the minute details, to never be complacent.

It’s also a joy. As the girl who always got picked last at team sports, it boosted my confidence to be able to do this pose with ease. It helped me to discover that though I’m not thin, I’m flexible. It taught me to enjoy physical fitness. But most of all, it brought me peace. There is something about holding this pose, really giving myself over to it, that transports me to a place of serenity. I don’t have to fight anything. I can just be.

Blogger Chanti Tacoronte-Perez describes the pose as “grounding versus aspiration”. One hand to the earth, one hand reaching for the stars. The whole body is extended toward the sky, but the feet remain firmly planted. It’s asymmetrical, off-kilter, a unique way of viewing the world. It’s little wonder I feel so comfortable in it: that’s an apt description of me.

If you practice, what does the triangle pose mean to you? Join me in a month for the next instalment of my yoga diary.

 

Selina