Friday, April 8, 2011

Belief: Mayurasana and Pushing Buttons

I don't often talk about the specific asana ins and outs of my practice on the blog. I don't talk much about it because I think reading about it would be boring. That doesn't stop me from talking about it to friends and family in person...but after a few minutes of "pose chatter" their eyes start to glaze over. :-) I get up. I do the poses. Some days they go more smoothly than others. Over time there is more ease, less effort....yawn...

...but I'll deviate a bit today for a short rant and a bit of self pity....fair warning.

At the moment, I hate mayurasana. I've never really hated a pose before. There were, and are, lots of poses and transitions that I struggle with. For any number of reasons, that doesn't especially bother me. I've waited years for things to open enough to do a full expression of a pose. Again I've worked for years to strengthen things enough to hold a pose together. There never seemed to be a reason to hurry. what's the difference with mayurasana?

I think it comes down to belief.

For a long time, (like years) I didn't really believe that this practice was something I could do with any sort of skill or grace. I could muddle my way through the fundamental poses, laugh about how weak my upper body was when trying to hold chaturanga, and that was okay. I was a "smart kid" with a venomous hatred for all things "sporty" and a knack for breaking things as I clumsily knocked them off counters. A hike in the woods?...great, count me in for sure. A game of kickball?....oh god no. I used the words of others, of family, of friends to reaffirm what I thought I already knew...physical grace was for other people.

...but I kept practicing

...and the unexpected happened. I got more flexible. I got stronger. I learned to breathe. Each new pose seemed equally impossible, so when some new pose happened in my body for the first time, I accepted it with delight. I was never disappointed when I couldn't do something, because I had no expectations that I would be able to.

...and over time, the practice and my teacher slowly worked to change my belief. Maybe this was possible after all?

I thought I might hit a wall with karandavasana, but no. Even there, my teacher showed me how to break it down into pieces. I patiently worked on each one. There is still alot to do on this pose. It's challenging, sure, but doesn't especially frustrate me, because I can find a way in. As I work on it, it improves.

With mayurasana, for the first time, I am disappointed. I am frustrated to the point of tears, to the point of wanting to stamp my feet and yell that it's not fair. Mayurasana is pushing buttons. The feeling of someone taking a sharp stick and poking at all the tender and vulnerable spots has been a hallmark of second series practice for me. Layers and layers of feelings and experiences that I thought were gone have risen to the surface to be either embraced or burned away for good.

I was still frustrated after this mornings' practice, unusual for me. As I was stomping around the kitchen, my husband asked why I was frustrated. My answer?..."I think my boobs are too big to do mayurasana." ...he burst into laughter.

Yes, it's of course, it's absurd. It's ridiculous in some sense that existential angst is brought on by my attempt to wedge my elbows under my chest and pick my toes up off the floor. Then again, in some sense it's not so absurd. This is a practice designed to help me see what is actually there in front of me. Samskaras by definition, run deep. It takes some creative digging perhaps to bring them up to the surface to be examined.

The more I see, the more my beliefs are challenged....because when you believe so firmly that you can't, what do you do when you see that you can?

Mayurasana is pulling at deep samskaras and asking big I really enough, just as I am?

My teacher seems convinced that doing this pose is entirely possible for me...with practice of course. This will not be the first time that I lean on his belief in hopes that it will drown out my own doubts.


  1. Mayurasana is the first pose that pushes your buttons? Really? Not supta kurmasana or Mari D??

    But I agree.. it's not really a fun pose to play with (I've tried it before but never bothered to try to work it)

  2. Hi Yyogini,

    I know that sounds crazy right?! :) Supta K was definitely an intense pose, uncomfortable for sure, and brought up some general feelings of fear...but with that one it just seemed like if I was patient my hips would open and it would happen...and it did, but took about 5 years! I came into the practice naturally bendy in most ways, but with no strength. I could do mari D almost right away, but couldn't make it halfway through primary without putting my knees down! a pose had to come along eventually right? :)
    I really thought I was over all those body shape issues from the teenage years...but mayurasana is making it clear that there are some things I'm still feeling bitter about. It's glad that there's a pose to dig that up so I can really take a look at all of it. Hopefully, there'll be some peace from those issues on the other side of all the work.

  3. Hi Christine,
    I think we can all relate to this. I think it is one of the ways that asana can teach us.

    Practically speaking as someone who has recently struggled with this pose maybe I can help. After practicing it 3 x a day for about 6 month it is finally making more sense. I have a strong rather than flexible practice so thought this would be easy, ha a good lesson for my ego that was.

    Re, the breasts, mine definitely aren't too big,lol, but I had a good tip from a teacher which helps me get them out of the way. Cup then with elbow from the outside i.e. draw them in, then make sure your elbows are not slipping on skin or T-shirt. I have found that doing this bare belly at home, because I don't sweat much but at the shala a t-shirt works best, experiment.

    The final thing that helped me get the balance was to find the length in the pose. Here is what I do get elbows into position put head on the floor. Get elbows a low as I can. Point and reach out of my feet and continue to do so. Then lean forward lift upper body and leg slowly and keep reaching out of the toes.

    Hope this helps. Plenty of poses have hit my buttons more than this one but I don't think I have ever fallen so much before! I also started to wonder if it was ever going to possible for my body, I blamed strong and thus heavy cycling thighs. Yoga allows us the space to accept and discover how to work with our bodies, as they are, enjoy the journey.

  4. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for the encouragement and great tips! It will definitely be the long road on this one...but you're right. It's the sticky asanas that really have something to teach us. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the pose so far. Keep me posted as your pose evolves! :)