Smile, Its Only Yoga? When Letting Go Seems Impossible

Nicole Markardt
Smile, Its Only Yoga? When Letting Go Seems Impossible

A common catch phrase in the hot room, and in many yoga studios is “smile, it’s only Yoga!” This is usually a reminder when we attempt a challenging posture, in which, falling is extremely likely and common.

Yoga is a practice of consciousness where we meditate on our body and attempt to let go of our stubborn mind. Our minds provide us with excuses and command us to make choices that enable both physical and emotional comfort.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali teaches that yoga is a practice of non attachment, as well as, mastering ones own thoughts. While we try not to have attachment to the outcome of our efforts, we have moments where we get incredibly frustrated by results that seem to be a bit too subtle. We work hard, and we want results. We practice. Its yoga practice not yoga perfect, right?

Wrong!

There was one class, very recently, where I found myself in a difficult battle between my ego and my body. I have never held standing bow pose for the entire 60 seconds in the first set. Ever. Finding the perfect balance of reaching forward while kicking up is something I have not managed to hold for more than 20 seconds (I’ve counted). I stood eagerly on my mat determined to hold this posture for the entire minute. I focused my eye gaze in the mirror, one arm up, grip on the outside of my ankle and I began to kick up, to reach- in little increments. I kick, I reach...

The instructor reminds us that if we reach and kick with perfect balance we can stay like this all day. Her voice is like a hair in my eye. She keeps talking, “Remember, we stand on two legs all the time so falling when we stand on one is normal.” I feel as if she’s speaking directly to me. I don’t care what she has to say. I find her voice very distracting. She’s using logic, and my logical mind is lingering off in the stratosphere somewhere in the previous posture. I reach, I kick...

I am doing it. I’m holding the posture. I desperately want to “shush” the instructor because I’m afraid even a faint breeze from her chatter will cause me to fall. Suddenly, the wrinkle in my towel under my standing leg becomes a mountain. I’m sure that if I fall out, it will be because of my wrinkled towel. I’m reaching, I’m kicking… I’m steady, palm flat.

In this moment, holding this posture is everything. “Smile, its only yoga” is not possible. If I fall out, I’ve failed. The sweat drips from my nose onto my towel, and I am staring into my own eyes. This posture is the most important thing in my entire life at this moment. I start to feel a bit shaky. I tell myself, “Bengal Tiger determination.”

I fall.

As both my feet come down heavily on my mat and I’m back on two legs, I feel defeated. Angry. I actually suck my teeth… during yoga! I sucked my teeth during yoga! I shook it off and finished my class. As I lay in savasana in my final meditation, after the heart opening postures, as I reap the benefits of finishing class- I begin to be a bit hard on myself for reacting that way. My typically still mind, during class, took over. It was as if holding that posture would determine my worth. My mind was in the driver’s seat.

In reality, when I wipe away my ego and self-doubt (as yoga helps us to do), I realize that I’ve committed to something that takes mental diligence. It takes practice. I’ve committed to myself. One day, I will hold standing bow steady and solidly for 60 seconds. That’s attaching to an outcome though, right? Why not? Believe in your outcome. Manifest your desires. This is where the magic happens. We play with our edge, invest in ourselves and we transform. Obstacles, at times, only move one millimeter at a time- just like the progression of our postures. So we balance ourselves, steady our gaze on our goal and we reach.