When I was a teenager, I once told my mom “I wish I had perfect legs,” without hesitating, she replied “You do – you can walk.” The simple truth of this statement stunned me and, temporarily, made me realize how strong my body was. But, being a teenager, I found a way to shrug it off and continue to covet the aesthetic qualities of “perfect” legs. A few months ago I received a ticket for texting while driving and was given the option of attending a high risk driving course to help offset the fine. Of course, I took the class. Like my mother’s statement, this class opened my eyes to the magnitude of my strength and power…and my tendencies to take this power for granted.
I feel as if so many of us go through our days on auto pilot–the same routines, the same thought patterns. And then we get into our yoga practice and try to push ourselves past our abilities of that moment. We push ourselves by often criticizing or harshly judging ourselves. How often do you wish you were like someone else? Or get jealous because someone else can do something better than you? Or look down at yourself because you can’t hold a pose or get into an arm balance?
During the high risk drivers course, trauma survivors spoke about their life since their car accident. The speakers varied in their mental and physical capabilities: some could no longer walk, some could barely speak due to brain injuries and/or physical limitations, one had lost his short term-memory. What was consistent in all of these stories was their human capacity to survive. All of the speakers spoke of learning to speak again, to read again, to learn to feed and dress themselves again, and for those who could walk — learning to walk again. I listened to the stories, taking note how some speakers struggled just to move and to speak, I was reminded how strong and powerful we all are. I became to appreciate my own self-appointed “flaws.” I put aside my inadequacies, and ego, light of my new found awareness of my very capable body.
In the following days as I taught my yoga classes, I could see my students struggling with their own bodies, frustrated at poses they felt they could not do, even frustrated when they needed to rest. With my students, I shared the gift these speakers had given me — the reminder that we are strong, able-bodied human beings. While some people struggle to feed themselves, we are blessed to have the luxury to get frustrated with ourselves because we can’t do the splits while balancing on our hands!
In yoga, many times we see a complicated pose and struggle to get there, upset that we can’t do the pose, we get down on ourselves. I told them the stories I heard hoping they would understand how strong, capable, and powerful they are and, more importantly, honor their bodies by being acknowledging that what they can do is magnificent. Instead of judging ourselves for what we are unable to do, must be thrilled of what we are fully capable of doing. We must always aspire for something a bit higher, a bit further, in order to keep our mind, body and spirit stimulated, but in order to fully reach those places, we also need to sit back, rest, and honor where we are.