How To: Be Open to Whatever Comes Next

It took me 15 months to get Marichyasana D on my own. Getting it on my own was a huge goal of mine, and for many, many months this goal kept me coming back to my mat. I knew this pose was key to unlocking and understanding so many other poses in the primary and intermediate series. I knew that getting this pose would send me deeper into my Ashtanga practice and I was stoked for that. Then it finally happened sometime in late February. I got it on my own—no assistance, no props, no modifications–for the first time. Then it happened again, and again and again. And as anticipated, more things opened up for me physically. I was so excited about this accomplishment that I texted my Ashtanga buddies and even wrote on Facebook about it! I was feeling more inspired than ever to keep coming back to the mat because I knew there were exciting new things ahead now that I had Mari D in the bag. Or so I thought…

About 3 weeks ago I lost the pose. It just… stopped happening. I didn’t injure myself. I didn’t make any drastic changes to my practice. My body just decided to pull the plug on wrapping D. I didn’t think much of it when it happened the first time… “Perhaps I’m just tight today,” I said to myself. But now 3 weeks later I’m struggling with the pose all over again and am feeling a mix of emotions: Confusion, anger, frustration and disappointment to name a few.

There is one question that keeps coming up: What the hell went wrong?

I can’t figure it out anatomically. Is it my hips? My knee? Shoulders? The lotus leg? Not enough twist? Not enough breath? Too much breath? All of the above? After really thinking about it and consulting my teacher at Ashtanga Yoga Montclair, I figured out the one thing I had wrong:

Expectation.

I did have realistic expectations for Mari D: you get the pose, you move on in the sequence. However, I also had unrealistic expectations: you get the pose and then you’ll never ever struggle with it again for as long as you live. WRONG. So wrong! It has taken me a little while to digest this. I’ll be honest… I’m really upset that I lost the pose. I’m so upset that I don’t want to even practice! I feel myself getting all-emotional as I prep for it. I think of those couple of weeks that I had it, and then the mind chatter gets louder and louder as I see my teacher walking over to help me with it. Once its all said and done I’m so frustrated with it that the rest of my practice feels like its all for naught.

I stumbled upon a mantra to help me work through this: Be Open to Whatever Comes Next. The key to being open is to have no expectation… and in my case, have no expectation for the physical practice. This is really, really hard. Any yogi that is reading this right now knows how hard this is. The physical practice is what attracted me, and many others, to yoga in the first place. As teachers, we tell our students to pay attention to poses, but simultaneously ask them to not pay attention to poses. So now I find that I really have to dig deep and be inspired by something other than asana to get me on my mat. I’ve become inspired by my breath, my drishti and my technique. I’ve become inspired to just practice and ride the flow. And when Mari D comes along, I try to be open to and okay with whatever comes next. I try (key word, try) to move without expectation and allow myself to be wherever I’m at. I practice this on the mat in hopes that it translates off the mat too. When the universe throws rocks at me, or my life shifts in a way that I wasn’t expecting, I see if I can too shift to stay inspired be okay and open to whatever comes up next in the life queue.

I talked to my teacher, Deb Williams, about all of this and she said something that’s been resonating with me ever since. It went something like this, “What happens with the poses has nothing to do with who you are internally. Who cares if you can wrap in Mari D by yourself? Are you a good person on the inside? Are you doing good things in your community? If the answer is yes then you have to learn to let go of the asana. Learn to enjoy the ride and use this practice to work on who you are on the inside so you can be better out in the world.” So true, and so wise. This reminded me of one of my favorite quotes – Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. Perhaps I needed to lose Mari D so I could bruise up my ego a bit, remember I’m still a novice and take a slice of humble pie. Perhaps I needed to struggle with the pose all over again to remember to that my dedication and passion for my practice has to run much, much deeper than the asana. Perhaps I needed to remember that my practice (and my life) will change without warning… and who I am to the core needs to not only be kind, but stable and patient. Perhaps losing the pose put me back into an essential place of my practice to remind me to keep showing up regardless what happens… or in my case, stops happening.