esther m palmer

When I first started studying yoga at ISHTA, the pictures in the studio of teachers doing "fancy" poses just looked like pretty pictures to me. How these could actually be representations of real people doing postures a human body could ever be capable of, didn't even cross my mind. Kinda like when most of us don't even look in awe at ballerinas, we just enjoy their dancing like a beautiful painting (at least, that's kinda how I approach ballet).

Years and lots of education (svadhyaya) later, I find that for the first time as I mindlessly gaze at these images while waiting for the classroom to open, I can see with physical knowledge how those bodies came to be comfortable in those postures and can understand how one day my body will be capable of them too. As if, all of a sudden, the muscles understand what their jobs would be to support the bones in a split forearm stand (pincha mayurasana variation). Of course, it isn't "all of a sudden," it's that part of the process of daily practice, daily investigation, and daily curiousity that just feels like "ah ha!" but has been building all along.

And when I realize that, I see that there's nothing in those fancy poses that isn't in the so-called simple poses. They all take practice, they're all only as possible to do as our skeletal structure will allow, they're all only as pretty or perfect as the balance we strike in our ease and effort (sutra 2.46 "sthira sukham asanam"). They all give us room to explore our bodies and ourselves.

It is no easy feat to learn how to do all that practicing, exploring, and changing, but the best advice I can give is 1) to start 1b) to dive in to the aspect of yoga (or anything) that excites you most, not necessarily that aspect that you think of as being "true" yoga 2) to proudly approach your new efforts with a willingness to feel awkward, silly, shy, fearful, skeptical, confused, unsure, thrilled, alive, excited, playful, open, and whatever else you might happen to feel 3) to ask boldly for help, because that there is an intimidating list of emotions to let yourself experience all at once!

Om shanti

PS. Don't I look happy in natarajasana, dancer's pose? I would have posted tadasana, mountain pose, since it is a classic pose for demonstrating balance in the body, but I didn't look as happy in that one. Tadasana is hard.


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