Smarter than yesterday…

Good morning!  Housekeeping:  teaching today July 1st, 19th and Broadway Equinox, 1pm.  Teaching Monday July 4th 10am Soho, 1:15pm, Columbus Circle.  All Vinyasa, all Equinox.  All good!  Please come and if you would like to be my guest just let me know:)  I would be happy to have you!

This coming weekend we are celebrating July 4th, which for many of us is a great 3 day, or 4 day, or (super lucky folks) a 5 day weekend away from work or school and time to be with family, friends, neighbors, etc. But this July 4th maybe we can take a deeper look into the concept of freedom, what it means to be free, and how this relates or can potentially relate to our yoga practice.

For some of us, this past Friday June 24th was a highly significant day in history.  The New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act , shortly after which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law, becoming the 6th state and 7th jurisdiction in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage.  What was striking about the process as it unfolded in New York State, and particularly that Friday evening, is that we who watched it were witness to several highly courageous and significant statements. These statements were not coming from long time gay rights activists or those in the Senate hallways holding rainbow flags, amid the throngs of protesters who had been there for weeks indulging in their right to assemble.  No, these bold and inspiring statements were made by Republican senators who were formerly opposed to gay marriage, who this Friday changed their stance and by doing so, allowed their voices to have a tremendously positive impact on the future of civil rights in this country.

One of these senators, and I cannot remember if it was Stephen Saland or Mark Grisanti – forgive me – said that he realized on a fundamental level, that is it possible to be smarter today than you were yesterday.  This has stuck with me all week, as I find that as long as we are open to the learning process, we are always capable to becoming smarter, wiser, more fully connected and engaged with ourselves, our work, our relationships and our community.  When we allow this process to happen, we can see through concrete evidence via the political process displayed by the NY State Senate, that change is possible, even when the odds are against it, even when the choices require bravery, strength, depth of character and a true level of honesty about who we are, and what kind of person we would like to be.  

I have been practicing yoga since 1995. For years, perhaps, oh I’d say the past 7 or 8 years,  I struggled with – and presently still struggle with – doing a forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana). You can see from the picture to the right that doing “fancy” or inverted postures is not entirely out of my range, but for some reason forearm stand has always eluded me.  I don’t have a picture of myself doing it because literally I cannot hold it for more than 2 seconds.  I happen to have a lot of mobility in my spine, which makes me prone to hyper-extending my back, especially in a pose like forearm stand, where precision and execution are crucial to obtaining and maintaining balance.  Forearm stand, as with any balance, requires that we maintain our center of gravity over our base of support.  The base of support in forearm stand are the forearms and elbows, while the center of gravity, for women the hips, for men the upper body, ascends over and upside down on top of the forearms.  How do we stabilize the center of gravity?  We use the muscles of the abdominal wall to stabilize the pelvis, and the muscles of the shoulder girdle to stabilize the upper body.  My struggle to stabilize has not deterred me from practicing my forearm stand regularly.  I typically fall or flip forward almost every time.  Then I get back up to try again, or attempt the other side. Sometimes I audibly sigh…

And then….

I did it!  Last night, in Derek’s class at Pure Yoga, I did a forearm stand and held it for 5 breaths.  I did not do a victory dance, as this would have not only been widely inappropriate, but also would have undermined what I knew deep down.  This was not some incredible turn of fortune, or some freak act of nature.  This was something I always had the capacity to do. The fact that I was able to do it after years of practice, patience and the occasional bout of frustration was just a reminder that yes, sometimes things seem tough and out of our reach.  Sometimes we need courage, strength and determination to get something accomplished.  But if that something is important to us, we will stay the course, find our focus, find our breath, and when the time comes, we will be ready to shine.  Wouldn’t you know that on the second side I was not able to hold it?  I flipped over, as usual, and Derek and I shared a laugh about it, as we both know its a game of inches, a process of trial and error, and the mere act of trying and falling is always better than not trying at all:)

Celebrate our collective freedom this weekend.  We have all grown as a society by witnessing the inspiring acts of a few brave senators who made a controversial choice and stepped out of their comfort zone on behalf of what they knew was the right thing to do.  It is possible to be smarter today than yesterday.  It is possible to accomplish something that for years has been out of your reach.  It is possible to embrace your freedom, take a risk, and be rewarded for your bravery, your faith in yourself and your willingness to listen to the voice in your head that says Go For It!  Whatever is your version of either forearm stand or voting for Same-Sex Marriage, embrace the challenge, feel the fear, open to the possibility and enjoy the ride.  Freedom!  It is a beautiful gift , residing within the heart and mind.  Unlock yours and see where the liberation takes you!  See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966.

“Things do not change.  We change.”  Henry David Thoreau, Walden.