An Offering of the Heart: Expanding Compassion While Exploring Challenging Asanas
For some of us learning advanced or challenging yoga poses can be a freeing, fun and liberating experience from the get go, but for many of us, they can bring up fear, doubt, and even self defeating thoughts and emotions. Most of us know the feeling of exploring say, handstand -- getting up, almost balancing, then before you know it, you fall, and you feel embarrassed, ashamed and like never trying it ever again. You wonder why you would even try something so out of your reach. This brings us to why we do yoga. We come to our practice for many reasons of course, but ultimately, we are trying to create union with the divine being within, complete acceptance of who we are, and yoking of mind, body, spirit.
If you are on a path of exploring more advanced yoga asanas, the practice of self-acceptance and self nurturing is vital for going deeper into the practice and actually attaining the poses you desire. It is a wonderful way to put Ahimsa (non-violence) to great work. When we choose to go deeper into our physical practice, we can either use it as an opportunity to cultivate more love in our hearts, and more compassion for the self. Or we can use it as a way to feel defeated, overwhelmed and even inadequate. So when you are learning a pose, and you fall out of it, or just barely get it or not at all, it is important to always be grateful, accepting and joyful about what your body is capable of and what it is not.
For me personally, my body was somewhat naturally flexible when I started the practice, but I had no strength. Learning more advanced postures brought up so many emotions; a necessary process, so that I could move past anything that was blocking me or keeping me from feeling a complete connection to myself. For me, even just finding out how to move and work with my body was challenging because I never really had any interest in physical activities until I found yoga. It took many hours of practice, patience and surrender to learn more challenging postures, and the journey will always continue. Yoga is infinite in that way. Building the strength to do poses like inversions, arm balances, and even challenging transitions was humbling to say the least, but on many levels it was vastly empowering.
We are taught in life often to achieve, achieve, achieve, but we need to remember in yoga it is actually the opposite, we are there to be, be, be. The experience of going deeper physically is a profound way of realizing our Samskaras (habitual patterns or deep impressions). It can put a huge spotlight on our fears and deeply rooted negative thoughts about ourselves. Once we realize that, we are able to move past them in such a beautiful and healing way. The various postures are an extraordinary way to find deep inner strength, wisdom, and confidence, even when they are not exactly how our ego wants them to be. Especially when they are not how our ego wants them to be. So we must remember we are doing this for a more authentic and deeper purpose than to attain the perfect pose.
To know that you are on your mat without expectation or judgment of what will manifest is one of the most freeing and liberating experiences we can feel. When we start to judge our physical practice then we start moving away from the deep harmony we are looking for. It is always important to keep in mind that yoga is a moment to moment exploration and the challenging postures will come with time, dedication and surrender, or they won’t and that is perfect too.
If we can use the process of going deeper into the asana practice as a way of finding more compassion for ourselves then we are creating a safe, loving and healing space within. This will allow us to be free to explore the physical and mental body.
The most advanced yogis are the ones who actually live their yoga. Becoming stronger physically and adventuring into advanced poses can be so rewarding all in itself, but at the core of it we are not our body, we are our spirit. So whatever we do in our practice should have an intention of developing the spirit above all. To know deep in our hearts we are creating more space for love in our spirits through yoga is the greatest gift.
The joy is in the journey, the path is wide open, and the abundance of yoga is awaiting you!