Thursday, April 27, 2006


From Wai Lana:
Three-Stage Perseverance

Some yoga poses are easy for us; we like doing them and practice them
regularly. Sometimes, however, we try a new pose that stretches muscles we don't
often use or requires us to muster up strength. That's when our resistance kicks

Let's say you learned a new pose yesterday that was quite hard for you.
When it comes time to do it today, you're reluctant. You know how stiff you were
in that pose, how little movement you got, and it felt uncomfortable. So you're
inclined to skip that one. But those are just the poses your body needs.

If you persevere, you'll go through different stages as you work with the
pose. The first stage of reluctance usually lasts about a month. But as your
body loosens up, you'll move into the second stage. The pose becomes tolerable
and your body and mind no longer resist so much. This stage may last another six
weeks or so, getting better and better. Finally, you'll get to stage three; the
pose will be quite pleasant and enjoyable. At that point, when the pose becomes
easy for you, it's time to find another pose that you're reluctant to do.

I like Wai Lana's point. What she describes is approximately what I experienced with Crescent Lunge during our teacher training exercise. My hips tend to be pretty tight, and the straight back leg extension in CL was almost impossible for me if I lunged more than an inch or two with my front leg. So I disliked the pose altogether. But we did so many of them in training, that I just learned to suck it up. Over the course of that training, I did begin to notice nothing that felt like real progress, but tiny differences over time. I've noticed in bits and pieces the gradual lengthening of my back leg. And I found that straightening the back leg got easier. Perhaps the leg was getting stronger. Perhaps the muscles wrapping the hip had lengthened. Perhaps my mind reduced its opposition.

Then yesterday, I was in a class at the nearby studio, and the teacher seemed to have a fetish for low lunge and crescent lunge. As we repeated, again and again, the poses, I lengthened into my now standard version of Crescent Lunge. The teacher looked at my pose, knelt in front of my lunged leg, grasped my lunged calf just below the knee joint, and leaned back, drawing my lunged leg forward, until my lunged knee was exactly over my ankle. She then nodded, released my leg and moved on. I looked at the lunged leg. It was in the classic position -- ankle-to-foot: 90 angle. Thigh-to-calf: 90 degree angle. Top of thigh parallel with the floor. Pelvis and shoulders squared to the front. Then I noticed my back leg -- straight from hip to heel, resting on the ball of the foot. I lengthened my arms higher toward the ceiling and experienced Crescent Lunge.

It was by no means an easy pose for me -- so I still have miles to go. But it is interesting to see, in hindsight, the tiny increments in strength, flexibility, and the strange combination of mental devotion and letting go that led to where I am today.