Armed with Ego
For the past month, Jason and I have been working on arm balances. He's patiently helping me improve my handstands, forearm balances, and headstands. He has also introduced me to poses such as Tolasana (Scale Pose), Bakasana (Crane Pose), and Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane Pose).
Because my lower body is well-conditioned from years of cycling, running, and rowing—and also thanks to Jason's precise teaching style—standing poses have come along smoothly thus far. While there are always more subtle layers to study, I find I can respond quickly to instructions regarding the lower half of my body.
The arm balances are a whole different story! They are a lot of fun, but they don't come to me naturally at all. I find myself alternating between enjoying the fun new shapes and getting frustrated with my obvious ineptitude at the poses! When we practice arm balances, my scrawny upper body gets tired more easily compared to my big legs in the standing poses. I also notice that arm balances and inversions are a great challenge to my core strength. Often my body fails me before my mind does. So I cannot just push myself harder, which is still my initial response as a competitive athlete. It is a serious lesson in patience.
Also, since these poses are unknown territory, I find myself coming face-to-face with quite a bit of fear. In Crane Pose I am not even two feet from the ground, but somehow not being on my big sturdy legs is a scary proposition. Or, perhaps, I'm scared of looking like a fool and falling on my face (or butt). The point is I'm encountering fear—a totally irrational kind of fear. (Jason even put a bunch of blankets all around to soften the landing if/when I fall. Too bad he can't pad my ego with blankets too!)
So it has been both interesting and surprising to discover these emotions. Jason says that my Bakasana technique is good enough to just practice at home and get more familiar. As it turns out, it is with frequent practice that these emotions are being dissolved away as we speak.
At this point, it has become evident that the learning process is never-ending. For me, the physical benefits of yoga are being outweighed by the emotional/spiritual benefits of gradually letting go of expectations, the drama, and the competitive ego. Whether it be lessons for the mind, body, or spirit, the journey appears to be infinite. If this is what a beginning practice offers, I can only imagine what a lifetime of study could bring!