How does the impossible become possible?
I don’t really know the answer to that. But I do know that in yoga it happens all the time.
Take rope Sukhasana, for example, or Shirley’s rope trick – as I think of it.
I first saw it two years ago, in an intensive workshop preparing for Junior certification.
We had been working on a pose called Lolasana, normally rendered into English as “pendant” or “earring pose” referencing pendant earrings that sway from a woman’s ear.
To do Lolasana, you press your hands down, and using the strength of your arms, back and core, you lift your legs off the ground and swing them back and forth.
This is not an easy pose for me, but it was never impossible.
The steps for working on Lolasana are clear and accessible.
By raising your hands on bricks, stools or even chair seats, you make your arms longer. That gives you a mechanical advantage that lets you work on connecting your legs and your core body. Then as the pose becomes stronger, you can decrease the height you use under your hands.
Shirley Daventry French, a senior level Canadian teacher who founded the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria, was teaching the intensive.
She wanted to demonstrate the power you need in your upper back in the pose. This is power that comes from creating a rounded back, rather like a bear’s. The difficulty is that most poses ask us to lift our chests, not round our backs.
To help us grasp the movement, she stepped into the ropes, pressed her hands down, floated up, and stayed there, talking about the power of the rounded back.
When it was our turn to sit in the ropes, I couldn’t begin to grasp it.
I pressed down and jumped, but my legs dragged me back to earth. I had no way to lift their weight.
The pose was closed, and I couldn’t see a door or a gateway anywhere.
Fast forward to June, and my last Sunday class for the spring session. The students had settled into a long relaxation pose. I was idling, leaning against the wall, between a set of ropes, when the idea of Shirley’s rope trick scampered across my mind.
I pressed my hands down over the knots, lifted off the floor, and for a very surprised moment, felt myself inhabit the pose.
I don’t have ropes at home. I haven’t been faithfully working at it every time I’m in the studio. I haven’t even worked particularly hard with Lolasana.
Yes, I’ve been strengthening the work of my arms in simple poses, and keeping my core connected in every pose I do.
But it’s just been practice, no triceps-toning visits to the gym, no gruelling schedule of abdominal poses.
So what happened?
All I know is that the pose opened.
And I don’t really know what this means, but the answer I’m groping towards is grace.
You do what’s in front of you, the best you can. And something you didn’t know you were working towards becomes possible.
Do you have an impossible pose? One you’d love to do, but can’t even imagine how to get there? Has an impossible pose suddenly become possible for you? Do tell.
Last week, with the much appreciated help of Diane Park, I shot my first video – a simultaneous leap into rope Sukhasana and a new medium.
Check it out on the home page. And if you like it, please share it.
It’s August. I won’t be internet-connected all the time, and can’t guarantee that I’ll have anything to say when I am.
I intend to post stories and recipes under the general heading of Blackberry Madness at Ant & Anise, the food blog I write with my niece Kris.
I’ll see you back here for sure in September.
Have a restful and energizing summer and may your possibilities expand with your practice.
Comments on this entry are closed.
A great great video!! Indeed it brought and smile to my face. Also very inspiring. Shirley inspired you but you and Mary have inspired so many people!! Always so thankful that I was able to take classes with you two for so many years! I have, just recently, found an Iyengar yoga class here in Errington, Vancouver Island ( not even 5 minutes away from where I now live) So happy again. And for me, yoga has brought me so many positive changes into my life.
Lovely to hear from you! And I’m so glad you’ve found an Iyengar class.
The expected impossibility becomes the unexpected possibility, great job and congratulations! you are a true inspiration that keep us going and going and going like the Ever Ready batteries….:0)
Hey thanks Loura! I like the idea of the batteries. . . .
You are a real inspiration and keep me practicing at 65 years!!
Ah Liz, Thank you! That’s sweet. I like to think of us all practicing into our nineties.