On the first warm day of this year I was practicing yoga in a park, hugely stoked on the weather. (It was 73; normally I wouldn’t consider anything below 75 to be “warm,” but after surviving the entirety of a Midwest winter I’m lowering my standards just a tad.)
I was practicing, more mindlessly than mindfully, as I was distracted by the colorful birds singing Spring and the gold of the sun as it filtered through the skeleton arms of the still-naked trees. I was doing the same shapes that I’ve done hundreds of times before, except this time, something happened that hadn’t happened any of the hundreds of times before.
My foot went behind my head. It just sat there, hooked around the back of my neck, and that startled my awareness right back into my body.
My foot had never gone behind my head. I’ve been working in that general direction for the last few months, and each practice after going through the rhythm of hip-opening and hammie-lengthening shapes, movements as familiar as breathing, I always tug my foot toward my head – just to try. It’s never been there, and I’ve never fought my body to make it be there. So when it slipped behind my head, I was a little shocked.
That’s the funny thing about yoga – when a shape finally happens (in my experience, at least,) it comes in all sneaky and nonchalant, like it’s trying to just quietly slide into my practice as if it had been there all along…Simple, effortless, and exhilarating (even if it all tumbles apart after a moment.)
It made me fall in love with yoga all over again. The older we get, the fewer exciting (and desired) firsts there are. Life could, I s’pose, start to feel a bit stagnant. The excitement of some of those huge firsts – first time climbing a mountain, first time swimming with a honu, first love, first time setting foot in a new country, first time living on your own, etc – is intoxicating and inspiring, and I think that to be able to keep some of that sense of wonderment throughout life is an absolutely magical thing. By bringing seemingly impossible things within the realm of possible, yoga does exactly that.
I don’t remember the details of the hundreds of times I practiced bringing my foot behind my head or tip-toeing into headstand (well, except for that time I fell on a nail and got a hole in my side,) but I’ll always remember in vivid detail the first time a headstand nonchalantly waltzed into my practice… and the first time my foot hooked behind my head.
Little things that may seem pointless, useless, or perhaps even frivolous to some, but to me, they’re exhilarating and inspiring and encourage me to set more goals, to keep on practicing the same habits – whether with yoga or in other areas of life – over and over again. Who knows – that next posture (or goal or job or relationship) might be just 1037 tries away 😉