In the last post, I talked about the tension between inspiration and feelings of inadequacy. We can look at those who come before as inspiration for what we might achieve, or we can be paralyzed by fear that we are never going to be as good as they are. While I believe Nelson Mandela was right when he said, “It always seems impossible until it is done,” I also know that bodies and life get in the way of us sometimes, and that is okay! If we learn to listen, these bumps on the road in fact become our new inspiration and our new paths.
In asana, this is easy to express -- everyone’s body structure is different. Therefore, it really is impossible for certain people to do certain postures, even without any injury. Paul Grilley, who teaches Yin Yoga, does a great explanation of anatomy that focuses on how bone structure influences our asana practice, and he “proves” that some bones just do no move into particular positions.
With the asana book discussed in the last post, one of the most amazing “abilities” the yoga teacher had was to do incredibly deep backbends almost seamlessly. Guess what? Our teacher, who has studied with him, informed us that he has a squishy, almost spongelike, chest. In other words, where most people have very solid ribs, the front of his chest is more malleable. Thus, he can do a backbend easier, and others may never be able to do it . . . simply because of our bone structure.
Thus, we can do our daily (or whatever time period) practice and find the inspiration to keep going, but forcing ourselves into postures and places that do not work for our bodies will only result in injury. And believe me, it is no fun when your hamstring informs you that you should have backed off. It is no fun at all!
This blog has focused on the topic of letting go before, including the second post (it is sort of strange for me to go back and reread old posts, but I thoroughly enjoy it!). Today, however, I want to focus on how inspiration and letting go can work together. By looking to what others have done before, whether it is on the mat or off, we can see what is possible in the universe. But we can only know what is possible for ourselves when we look inside. When I look at an asana book, I am not necessarily inspired to do any particular posture. Instead, I am inspired to keep practicing and working toward my own edge, my own limits, in order to help them expand and grow.
Again, this is harder for me professionally – perhaps because the modern world is so focused on success, and it is often measured relative to others. But taking the knowledge from the mat, from my asana practice, to my work life, I notice something that I have discussed before – we all have our own paths! A yoga teacher can help guide us into new and exciting asana, but at the end of the day, we must look inside to ensure we do not hurt ourselves. No yoga teacher can know what any posture feels like for you.
The professional world is no different. We can have mentors and friends, heroes and inspirations, but at the end of the day, we have to follow our own paths. We do not have to be a Supreme Court Justice or a Partner at a Top 10 law firm or even what we thought we wanted to be last week. Instead, we can seek out inspiration, move to our edge and then reevaluate and ask ourselves if this path is working for us or whether it is time to move in another direction.
In a world blindly focused on one definition of success, such a shift might be called giving up. In a world that recognizes that we each have our paths, such a shift might instead be called perfect for you. Thus, know that your bone structure may never allow you to do pigeon pose perfectly but that same hip structure gives you better stability in a backbend and take that knowledge to know that your path may not be to be the head of a corporation, but instead to give children a chance in life. In this scenario, those who have come before are inspiration for what can be achieved when you follow your own path, not a particular outcome, whether on the mat or in your life.
We can be inspired by people on a different path than us, and we can learn from how much they have accomplished, but we can only measure our own success based upon our own path. Are you on your path?
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved