“Falling out of the pose is part of the pose,” I once heard a yoga teacher say.
This advice goes beyond “if at first you don’t succeed…”
For sure, trying and trying again are essential to the practice of yoga — that’s why it’s called practice. And for sure, there is an ideal way to do any given pose.
But the saying about falling out of the pose contends that there’s more than one way to succeed. That if you can’t achieve the ideal, or a modification of the ideal, you can still succeed, simply by trying. That trying and failing is a form of success. And that falling out of the pose is not a question of if but when: there will be times when you have to make repeated attempts. There will be times when a pose simply eludes you, no matter how hard you try.
That saying came to mind yesterday when I was in a trance. A literal trance. And the idea stayed with me after I came out of the trance.
As one more step in my healing journey, I have enlisted a hypnotist to help me reduce anxiety, muscle pain, and my difficulty getting to bed at a reasonable hour. The first session, last week, was powerful and deeply relaxing. (No, she didn’t make me bark like a dog or climb the door jamb. Then again, this was a Zoom session, as necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Who knows what happens in person?)
Yesterday’s session, the second of three, was even more intense. It dug deeper, touching into emotional pain and releasing some of it. And it produced some insights.
Before beginning the trance, the hypnotist asked a bunch of questions, each building on the previous answer: what did I want from the session? What would that get me? And then what would the next thing get me? The exercise helped illuminate both what I want and some of the challenges in getting it — challenges that arise from wanting contradictory things, or from wanting peace and relaxation but also believing, at some gut level, that I don’t really deserve it. After all, there’s always work to do, and how am I gonna do it if I let myself relax?
Then, after guiding me into profound physical relaxation, Joann used my own words to help me imagine achieving my goals. I had told her I wanted to find balance since, in my view, life is all about finding balance between this and that, work and rest, responsibility and freedom, my needs and other people’s needs. So she kept talking about balance.
And something stirred, a small objection. A quiet but insistent voice that said: “Wait. Balance is not always possible. Sometimes I will be out of balance, and that needs to be okay.”
Falling out of the pose is part of the pose.
The hypnosis session drained me. Not in a bad way, but my mind and body definitely felt the effects of hard work. I would’ve like to write this yesterday, but lacked the mental energy. I’m still feeling wiped out today. So I am lowering my expectations for what I will accomplish, trying to be gentle and patient and remind myself that I did a major emotional workout and need to recover.
At the same time, I want to be intentional about how I use the limited energy I do have. Vegging is fine if I make a conscious decision that’s what I need. But if it’s just the path of least resistance, that’s not so great.
There’s that striving for balance again. Right now, as I write this, I’m in the pose. This afternoon’s thunder-and-sleet storm has passed. The sun is trying to come out.
In the future, I will surely fall out of the pose again. I will fall out of balance. And that’s part of the practice.
What is the Mary Oliver Challenge? Glad you asked. You can read about it here.