I remember my first photo shoot with my dear friend Jackie Nagel of J.Harper Photography. I was hell-bent on holding my yoga poses for eternity, sweat slowly creeping up on my brow line as I breathed my way even deeper into my expression. Like a statute, I could stay there, engaged in my Ujjay breathing, not moving an inch during the rapid shutter clicks. “You’re good,” I heard Jackie say, and slowly I’d come out of the pose as if to reply, “I could hold it longer,” with a snicker from my ego who pushed me to be in competition with no one.
This was so indicative of my yoga practice early on, a tough, muscular, rigidity accompanied by a tight jaw, strongly splayed fingers and a dagger stare. I was a badass; I dared anyone to mess with me in my Warrior II. And how predictable for me to practice in this way as I had spent my whole life trying to prove to everyone that I was this strong, powerful chick that you’d be crazy to cross or challenge, an armor that served my low self-esteem well. Yoga would be just another stage for me to display that strength, that toughness and rigor.
However, the more I showed up on my mat, the more the practice of yoga shed these layers from my bones as if removing a jumpsuit that was two sizes too small. It left me feeling raw and vulnerable at times and I found that in my vulnerability, I liked to feel the movement of the practice, the spaces in between the poses, the moving meditation with no expectation or judgment, just a journey on the way to the next posture. It was in the transition that I felt at one with my vulnerability, that I could feel it move through me, with me, embracing the unknown in a dance so that when I did arrive in the pose, there was a lightness in my face, fingers rested a bit softer in space, a subtle smile crept into the corners of my mouth. Here I stood in Warrior II without a trace of armor, open hearted, raw, vulnerable and smiling. The strength and power of the pose is still present but in a very different way, a more authentic way, as I allow the ebb and flow of my breath to create just enough waving movement in the stillness of the pose.
I tend to loose myself in the flow of my yoga practice and often hear from students, while I demonstrate a sequence at the front of the room, say, “you just look so graceful when moving,” a word I never really embodied in my life. Graceful. And so when life requires me to ride the waves of transition, I try to resist the urge to fire up my muscle and stern disposition, and instead I welcome a softening into the dance, loosing myself in the flow through the unknown on the path to my destiny, where I can arrive open, free, raw, and smiling. If I can embrace the spaces in-between my yoga practice with openness, grace and ease, wouldn’t it serve me well to do that in all the transitions in my life? Like yoga, life is a practice.