Friday, January 1, 2010

Always We Begin Again

"There's another class at noon."

"You deserve a rest. It's a holiday!"

"You need to shower, and it's too cold."

"This is your chance to finish the Wire in the Blood marathon. Only three more seasons to go!"

Such was the cantata of excuses that began with the 8 a.m. blare of my iPhone alarm clock. I'd changed the ring from the cloying "Marimba" to the opening bars of M.C. Yogi's "Ganesh is Fresh." Ganesh is the remover of obstacles. I was hoping he could remove me from my bed.

He was losing the battle until I recalled the feeling of being in Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand or peacock feather pose).

I have a mental block when it comes to inversions. It's called fear of death. But when I do go upside down, it's ecstasy. Simply stated, inversions make me feel as if I can do anything, which would lead one to assume I spend as much time upside down as humanly possible. Not even close. When it comes to yoga inversions, I have perfected the ninja art of invisibility. The moment a teacher says "handstand," I vaporize without actually leaving the room. Most teachers assume I'm sitting out these poses because, overweight, I'm not strong or advanced enough to execute them properly. The bigger I get, the more invisible I become.

But one Saturday morning last June, I rolled out my mat -- with trepidation -- for a new Power Yoga class. The teacher, Sherman Morris, had just moved east from San Francisco. Fifteen minutes and a half dozen sun salutations into the ninety minute class he threw me for a loop.

"Drop down to your elbows, and if Pincha Mayurasana's part of your practice, go ahead. If you have no idea what I'm talking about..."

I knew. But I was marooned in the center of the studio. No wall to hurl myself into. Nothing to stop me from breaking my neck. I did a few half-hearted hops and curled into child's pose, defeated and bored with myself. Then I felt a tap. I looked up from my pity party to see Sherman give the universal sign of "get your feet over your head right now." He wore an expression of utter confidence. He believed I could do the pose. Despite the metallic taste of panic in my mouth and the double knot of fear in my belly, I kicked up and, before I knew it, he was holding me upside down by my ankles.

"Less banana," he said from somewhere in the stratosphere. I sucked in my stomach and tucked my tail bone, gaining another two or three inches. All of a sudden I realized I was doing something I didn't know I could do.

Sherman's generosity and faith shattered the wall that had been blocking my progress for several years. I found the joy in yoga again. And now, every time I show up on the mat, I attempt death-defying feats. I practice. I fall down. I laugh. I practice again. One of these times I will stick the balance. Anybody can stand on their feet. I'm going to stand on my elbows. Maybe even tomorrow.

All I have to do is show up.

Weird Things I Saw in the Locker Room Today Department:

As I was getting dressed after class, the girl next to me took off her pristine Beyond Present yogawear ensemble under which she was covered, knees to rib cage, with saran wrap.

1 comment:

transient said...

Leslie, this is so beautiful and inspirational. You have a lovely practice, and with your dedication, it will only get better and better! I'm so glad I've gotten to know you this year and I look forward to sharing your journey with you as you inspire me in mine.