I can feel each muscle in my triceps, biceps, quads and arches strain and stretch, tighten on each inhale and release laboriously on each exhale as mentally instructed. I balance precariously, as I tend to in life, between diving forward, plunging deeply, and falling back, landing a pace behind because of lost confidence, stopped breath, discarded focus or fear. I can see my feet in the distance, ahead of my nose, a bead of sweat on it’s tip, my left knee on right knee, right knee on elbow bent 90 degrees. Balanced precariously.
Although every muscle from cheek to toe strains, I feel balanced and comfortable so I push farther. That is one of the many lessons that yoga teaches: never linger too long in comfort; always reach.
I lean in and flex, pushing to straighten my right leg first with the left close behind. My arms give. I dive face first into the ground in front of me, cushioned by my thin mat, my saving grace. My arms crumple, my legs tangle and the pose falls to pieces.
Our teacher observes my collapse and laughs out loud as he walks nearby, self-consciously catching himself after it slips from his lips. I smile too – I can’t blame him; my falls are far from graceful – but the laugh still stings a little. I was working hard.
The man on the mat next to me, older, strong and inflexible, wearing a bandana, muscle tee and gym shorts – an atypical yogi – unfolds himself from his balance and smiles. “She’s right where she needs to be,” he reminds the teacher in a moment of karmic wisdom. “She’s right at her edge.” He looks at me and says gently with a smile and humor in his eyes, “You’re doing it just right.” Without another word, he beautifully folds back into his pose.
It’s okay to fall on your face. It’s good to laugh at yourself. It’s good to laugh with others as they laugh at you if the chuckles and giggles are good natured and warranted. Humility is important and accepting, then letting go of failure and collapse is essential to happiness. With that being said, I’m grateful for my unusual guru’s kind, protective and encouraging words. Thank you for reminding me that I should be proud of myself when I fall, both on and off my mat, so long as I have the courage to try again. If I’m putting myself at my edge, pushing my comfort zones and toeing my boundaries until I fall without serious injury, that’s okay. I’m doing it right. I’m right where I need to be.