Monday, June 13, 2011

Doubt, anxiety, fear and the practice

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." 

Bertrand Russell

I succeeded in getting up this morning and doing my practice (see my previous post for more details on this). I did full primary and second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana. I decided that Karandavasana can wait till tomorrow. I'm one of those people who believe in having a slightly less demanding first day of the practice week (my rest day is on Sunday), so that I can kind of ease myself into the week. I say "kind of", because as far as the practice is concerned for me, there is really no such thing as easing into the practice: At some point, I simply have to face the uncertainty and doubts that stare me in the face when I step on the mat ("Will I have the energy to even make it through standing today?", "How will Karandavasana (or whatever one's "favorite" pose is) go today?", "Is this the fateful day when I finally break something in my body in Kapotasana?", etc, etc.), take the plunge, and have faith that breath, posture and drishti will carry me through the practice today, as it has always done in the past.

And so they did today. I have noticed that I have written so much about my Karandavasana (mis)adventures over the last few weeks, that it is easy to forget that other mountain in second series: Kapotasana. My Kapotasana is far from being effortless: Every single time, I have to hang in the posture for a few breaths till I can see my toes. Around the same time that my toes come into view, I will also feel this "pop" sensation in my right lower back; not sure why this happens, but it always needs to "pop" before it can go deeper into the backbend. After I see my toes and feel the "pop", I then dive for my heels. I usually miss, and land somewhere on my feet. And then I have to walk those two or three inches to get to my heels or ankles.

Here's the thing about the "pop". It is not painful or even uncomfortable, but neither is it the sort of straightforwardly comfortable sensation that one gets when one "cracks" one's back in a twisting posture. I don't know if this makes any sense to you, but maybe the best way to express this would be to say that it brings the lower back beyond the comfort zone without being straightforwardly uncomfortable... Hmm... I'm probably still not making much sense, am I? The funny thing is, it always happens only on the right side.

But I'm probably boring you with the details of my Kapotasana entry. I guess the larger point I'm trying to make is that I haven't gotten to the point where Kapotasana is effortless, physically or psychologically. Somewhere towards the end of primary, as I am chilling out in, say, Supta Padangusthasana, there often is a voice in my head, "Hey, don't be too relaxed yet; Kapo is coming soon." And then the rest of primary (and the first part of second) basically consists in trying to focus on things one breath at a time, and not think too much about what is coming. It's funny how Kapo still evokes such anxiety and doubt and, dare I say, fear, even though I have been consistently grabbing either my heels or ankles in this posture for about nine months now. Nine months? Hmm... is my practice about to give birth to something?  :-)

At the risk of being very pedantic, allow me to leave you with what might be a little nugget of yogic wisdom: Even though doubt, anxiety and fear can be paralyzing and destructive in excessive amounts, a certain amount of these emotions can actually be healthy in the practice. It keeps you on your toes (well, maybe not literally, but you get the picture...), and gives you an impetus to get on the mat: After all, if one does not have any challenging postures that gets one's heart beating just a little faster (so that you have to focus on your breathing more to control it), it would be so much more difficult than it already is to motivate oneself to get on the mat, wouldn't it?

No comments:

Post a Comment