"I’m going to take you to the circus. At this circus is a grown elephant. When the ringmasters want to secure the elephant and prevent her from escaping, they tether the elephant to a dense wooden crate. The elephant is larger and stronger than the crate, and could easily break free. But the elephant never does. You see, when the elephant was just a calf, she was much smaller. The crate was big enough that the elephant could not break free from the tether. So the elephant learned that the block was stronger than she. As the elephant grew, she did not realize that she had surpassed the block’s hold, and could un-tether herself if she only chose to do so. Her own perception was the only thing holding her back. Just think- what might be tethering you?"
This is the story my yoga teacher told at the beginning of practice this afternoon. His objective for today’s class was for all of us to untether ourselves from our own, constricting perceptions. The poses we think we cannot do, the breath we think we cannot maintain… the list goes on, both in one’s practice and in one’s life. It was such a fitting story for me today. Just prior to class I went running on the treadmill to try and meet my weekly mileage goal, and broke a personal time record for my 2 mile distance. I’ve been struggling all winter to break 17 minutes. I’ve thought, I just can’t run faster than an 8 1/2 minute mile, and that’s on a really good day. My hip just can’t take it, my muscles just can’t carry me that fast, my mind isn’t that persistent. But today I was pressed for time in order to not be late for yoga, and I didn’t want to cut my distance short (I had to meet my quota!), so I just said- why can’t I just run it faster? I was in the room alone, there was no one else exercising- I can just do it. So I did. I ran my 2 miles in about 16’10”, 8 minutes flat on the back mile. I didn’t even feel unusually winded and my muscles didn’t burn. It’s been my own perceptions that’s been holding me back from running faster, reaching higher, pushing harder. In class afterwards, I even reached new heights with my practice. In Patanvriksasana (Topping Tree Pose), I almost reached a full T form on my right side.
You never know what you are capable of unless you untether yourself from your own perceptions. It doesn’t matter if other forces at work block your path- they aren’t under your control. The first step is to get out of your own way. Just like the elephant, you are stronger than that which tethers you, and can at least open yourself to the possibilities beyond it.
Cats. Photo by Emre Can Gunel
a great way to re-charge after a tough work-out!
Today’s hot yoga class took a lot out of me. I think it was a combination of running, abs, and weightlifting yesterday, running this morning, and then yoga this afternoon. I took a couple extra recovery child’s poses and didn’t push as much into postures like Dancer’s Pose or Camel Pose (bowed out of that one completely… my heart rate was wayy through the roof). Took me over an hour after class to truly feel like I was back to stasis. Making a killer dinfast/brinner of eggs, bacon, toast w/ homemade apple butter, and fresh made tropical smoothie helped to that extent.
I have found that the best thing to do when class kicks your butt like that is just to accept it, and not judge it. So I was a little wobbly. So I needed some breaks. I was still there, breathing, sweating, loving the stretch, and bringing awareness to my practice. Because that’s what it truly is- practice. And in the case of yoga, I feel it is never “practice makes perfect.” Even the most advanced yogi is going to have off days or will have poses that are always met with resistance or challenge. The point is to bring yourself to the mat and just work on your ability, whatever it is for that day or that moment.