It’s been a few days since I have been with Ronn and there is a temptation to want to treat yoga as a lesser discipline that plays second fiddle to the greater physical leaps that are more obvious in strength training exercises. If I can now hold a sit position at the wall for 1 minute with Bertina beating my ½ minute last week, I want to keep jumping forward everyday into similarly measurable advances.
To be fair, there is a kind of progress that I can observe with yoga, but it a quieter change often below the surface of my physical presence. In my hour in the studio, I have to restrain my mental inclinations to not wander around my life, regurgitating conversations or planning future events. It is work enough to focus my thinking on my breathing and then travel down my body finding areas where I can be bettered aligned to seek the virtue in the pose. Not carefully working through the discipline can have disappointing results when I leave class, a feeling of having cheated myself later.
So today, my challenge is to leave my ambitious ego behind that wants to achieve milestones to make me feel heroic in my own lunchtime crowd, or even alone in front of the mirror. I need to only follow Ronn’s guidance and the cold, yellow wall behind us that he presses my shoulders into, telling me again today to let the wall talk to me.
Standing flat against a wall is an awakening experience. It’s not comfortable actually, but it really should be. The straightness of a wall comes very close to our natural, ergonomically-correct alignment that should follow us into our sitting positions, as children instinctively practice early in life. I want to stick stuff out, slouch and tell the wall what I want it to do for me. But it has been really Ronn’s wall that has taught me that adjusting within solid limitations are just as much a valuable skill as my constantly searching for ways to bend them to my will.
When I started in Ronn’s class last year, while the rest of the ladies of Granada were by my side leaning into triangle poses, I’d head sideways all the way down to the ground, each arm stretched out to the Earth’s northern and southern poles. There is a release in sliding over and below so low, and you could hear hips popping all over the room and women exhaling in satisfaction. I was happily one of them, but unfortunately, I have learned in these three weeks alone with Ronn that I was sighing the whole time in ignorant bliss. There is no release in a triangle and I should be nowhere near the ground.
Ronn has me align myself to the wall carefully positioning my feet closely along the edge. My hips are to stay facing forward while I begin to slowly tilt to the side edging down just a smidgeon of space before I feel it. Fragile, tight, deep core resistance, maybe even pain?
A properly practiced triangle is attempted within a humble tight box of a few inches. On a good day I might lower another eighth of an inch into the ground while struggling within the restraints of the pose. There is massive opposition, it doesn’t feel good, and there are certainly no rapturous exhalations. But while a well-presented triangle looks unassuming from the outside, it is working wonders all over the body, strengthening thighs, hips and backs where secret emotions cradled in the lower abdomen can retreat.
Feeling the resistance in that small geographical area on my body and being aware of all the energy and strength that can be locked and unlocked within is a kind of astute understanding of my own physiology that cannot be checked in a mirror or on stopwatch. It is also this kind of careful introspection that is so integral to my yearning this year to rediscover my inner strength within a body that is well-loved and cared for by me. It’s going to take time and each piece of the effort has an intrinsic value to which I was compelled enough by my desire to change my life to make a commitment.
Ronn reminds me as we finish, that the mental energy we use to keep our secrets and to cover for those around us is daily exhaustive exercise. The constant effort holds us back from releasing and harnessing that same energy for our own greater goals. He knows that I keep this virtual journal a secret and everything that has led to my wanting to do it; he understands the time that all of this will take before it sees the light of day, if it ever does. But he also reminds me that while sometimes we need walls to backstop and guide us within appropriate limitations, there is also a time when walls hold us back and I need to be eyeing the possible moment for if or when I can take this one down.