Learning To Lead From The Heart

I'm in my usual spot, on the left side of the front row, next to my inspiring friend, in my usual Tuesday night yoga class. 

A little tired, a little sore, but had to come to class because that's what my friend and I do on Tuesdays. 

We arrive at crow pose and I hop up into it with some ease. I have (mostly) found my balance and stability in crow. 

For months I have been working on the next step, the transition from crow to chaturanga, in which you thrust your chest forward and jump your feet to the back of your mat. So far it has eluded me. But I try again tonight, determined to make it happen in this moment. 
 
And for the 487th time, I fall. I land, out of breath, with a resounding thud, on my knees. It hurts. I know exactly where the bruises will appear, because they're already there. Earned during Saturday's attempt at the same pose. Or Sunday's, I can't keep track. I have fallen every time. The bruises are always there.   

I try again. And fall again. FAIL.   

Suddenly, nothing else matters. Not the great catch-up with an old friend this morning. Not the long distance laughs I shared with colleagues in New York. Not the awesome presentation I gave this afternoon. Not even the nicest compliment from someone I look up to. Nothing matters except the fact that I can't get into this pose and I must be a failure. 

My teacher doesn't even need to say things out loud; I can hear them when she says nothing. Louder even.

It's just yoga.
If you fall, you must laugh.
If you are taking yourself too seriously, you are missing the point.

Right now, it's not just yoga, it's my whole life. Right now, I can't laugh, I'm about to scream. Right now, I can't even imagine what the point could possibly be. 

She has explained numerous times about this pose: it's not about jumping the legs back, it's about pushing the heart forward. The legs happen naturally when you lead with the heart. So maybe this is my problem. 

I don't know how to lead with my heart. 

I walk around all day, leading with my head. Or my shoulders. Or even my feet. Never my heart. 

Why? 

I don't know. It could be just poor posture, though I suspect it's probably more than that. It could be that leading with the heart feels too raw, too exposed, so I hide it behind shoulders. Hair. The strap of my bag. Whatever covers it up best. So when I need it most, to push my heart forward, I'm unable to do it. This pose becomes a metaphor for my life. 

A bit later in class. I'm still stewing in my complete ineptitude as a human being, when I hear the words of the song that's playing. 

"Now back, back, back it up. A back, back, back it up." 

Yes, it's "Get Low (to the Window, to the Wall)" by Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz coming through the speakers. I sing along in my head, silently, then out loud…a mantra to myself.   

BACK IT UP. GET OVER THIS STUPID POSE, KATIE. IT DOESN'T MATTER. REALLY, IT DOESN'T, EVEN IF IT FEELS LIKE EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. IT'S JUST YOGA.   

And then, miraculously, just like that, that's what it is again. Just yoga. 

The theme of the evening was Surrender. What do you want to leave here tonight, to surrender, and what do you want to fill that space in your heart? 

At the start of class I picked my lofty goals: I want to surrender the criticism of myself, or these issues with body image that I have, or taking on other people's problems as my own. Now, an hour later, I abandon them all in favor of something more urgent, more specific, more necessary. I surrender this pose. 

I surrender jumping from crow to chaturanga. I give it back. And instead I fill the space with laughter: I can laugh again when I fall. And I fill it with joy—I love just getting into crow, or into other tricky poses. Fill it with compassion—for my body, and my poor knees that could really use a break. 

I can nurture all of the gaping, hungry space left behind with what really fills it, what will cause my heart to start moving forward:  LOVE.  

Who would have guessed just how much could be learned from Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. Get Low. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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