Did you ever run through an obstacle course? It was fun, wasn't it? You are prepared, of course, for this kind of block in your path. There is a definite, visible beginning and end point. The way around is usually quite obvious, and there are no seriously negative implications for having traveled this adventurous path. These are the easy challenges, the fun ones! We rarely stop and think what these types of obstacles can do for us in the long run.
There are obstacles in yoga, too. We lovingly refer to them as "challenge poses." When you look at them more deeply, you can see they have a lot more to offer us than being able to claim a funky new stunt to your personal repertoire of postures. Challenge poses teach you calm, patience, and attention to the finest of details. They teach you persistence, and sometimes give you insight into your own limits. On occasion, the ultimate lesson is realizing when you've had enough, and accepting that maybe this posture isn't for you. Moving on requires a letting go of the ego, as well as an expanded viewpoint with which to look for your next challenge.
Last week, we used a simple acronym to DEAL with obstacles. Those same steps can be applied as we approach challenge poses.
Just as you sized up that obstacle course, do a little research on your challenge poses. There are lots of books and online resources to choose from. Take some time studying what benefits the pose has and what the contraindications are. Often, you can find tips to make your approach go more smoothly as well.
Don't kid yourself, there's a reason we call them challenge poses! Embrace the fact that it's not likely to be easy. Accept that it may take a really long time before you are able to execute the pose. Make falling in love with the process as much a part of the challenge as finally achieving the posture.
Unless you are feeling super-strong and confident, do not just slap your hands on the ground and launch into that crane! Take your time, slow it down. Position yourself carefully. You may not even attempt the full posture today. Keep your toes on the ground if you need to. Just breathe and think about where you are and where you want to go.
As you are breathing in that posture, whatever stage of it you are in, you are learning and growing. Your body is gaining strength as you continue to ease further and further into the pose. You are finding the subtleties of your balance, your strengths and your weaknesses. It may occur to you that there is another pose you should work on to build strength in an area you feel lacking. Great! You've expanded your practice even further. What an amazing lesson you have learned about yourself. Celebrate it!
When you DEAL yourself a challenging hand with your yoga practice, you create an experiment that shows you how you can deal with the larger obstacles in life. Even if you do not achieve your goal today (or ever!), you will walk away stronger and with more wisdom for having made the attempt.