This past weekend's workshop with Noah Maze was, as expected, awesome. My shin muscles are sore. I'm not sure how that is possible exactly, but it means I'm working my shins so that is good I think? Anywhoo... five hours on Saturday (hand balances, twists and hip openers) and three hours on Sunday (backbends...lots and lots of backbends...). Eight hours of pure awesome.
It's always hard to recap a workshop. I cant really put into words the internal and shift that takes place during some of these weekends, and sometimes putting my inner experience with yoga so openly on the internet feels a little to exposed. It's easier to hone in on one key idea or takeaway and pull it out, like a single golden thread from a complex tapestry.
The weekend was structured around the story of Hanuman, the moneky god who leaped across the ocean to rescue Rama's wife Sita from the demon king Ravana, and who had the power to shapeshift and become as large or as small as he wanted.
In the Ramayana, Hanuman took two leaps - the first to the sun, and the second to Sri Lanka. Hanuman took his first leap because he saw the sun, thought it was a juicy ripe mango, and decided hey I would like to eat that. I can't really blame him...I mean, mango right? Delicious. Anyway, this caused some drama and Hanuman ended up being struck down to earth by Indra.
Hanuman's second leap, the leap to Sri Lanka, came during his journey to find Sita. Hanuman is with a group of buddies looking for Sita, and encounters a slight obstacle in his search - the ocean. Hanuman feels defeated and believes that his mission to find Sita has failed; but, just when he wants to give up, his friend Jambavantha reminds him who he is. He sings Hanuman's praises, and Hanuman remembers his own powers and leaps across the ocean.
As children, we aren't afraid to leap for the sun. We don't yet realize that if we take a huge risk, we might get burned. I love watching kids play because they just throw caution to the wind. They might fall down and scrape their knee but they aren't thinking about that when they try to do a backflip off of the swing set. All that matters is the joy of being airborne.
As we get older, we lose that sense of infinte possibility. We forget our own power. I think this is partly because the stakes get higher, and by the time we reach the ocean we've experienced what it feels like to leap for the sun and be struck back down to earth. We know from experience that we need to be skillful and cautious in deciding whether we are up to the task of leaping across the ocean. To overestimate our ability is to fall in the ocean and drown.
But, I think we also need a to be reminded of our own vast capabilities. Sometimes we see a mango, and we think it's the sun - we only see all the ways in which we might get burned. But what if this time, it really is a mango and we are too afraid to leap?
Yoga is my constant reminder to play. It's OK to fall out of handstand, because it means you tried. And because you tried, it means that some part of you knows you are capable of balancing in handstand.
Through asana, yoga has taught me that things I once thought were impossible are completely within the realm of my ability as long as I keep doing the work. When I started practicing two and a half years ago I could barely touch my toes and was struggling to master bakasana. Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel in hanumanasana, and arm balances are some of my favorite poses.
Yoga is also my constant reminder to bring my best self to the table. It reminds me to be grateful, even when gratitude is hard to find. Forgiving, even when I am frustrated or angry. The ability is always there, I just need to remind myself tand let that part of me rise to the occasion when obstacles and challenges come up.
And sure, occasionally the best version of myself falls out of handstand...but sometimes that's just what happens when you go for the mango. No big deal.