In which I proselytize about yoga and life.

“You use the wall for strength. You don’t use it for balance.”

Last Saturday morning, I made my way to the Upper East Side for a yoga workshop with the incomparable Kerri Verna. I last took a workshop with her in February (if you recall), and wouldn’t have passed up an opportunity to practice with her again. Admittedly this workshop was not quite as evocative, physically nor emotionally, as the February one, but I think some of that was my own fault: I set my expectations very high, now that my inversions are nine months more practiced and advanced, and like all good lessons learned from the mat, my expectations were shattered, as the majority of workshop attendees were super new to any inversions, so we spent more time on fundamentals than the mid-room inversion practice I’d been hoping for. When we did finally start reviewing handstands, Kerri said the above line to the room, and I felt my face go beet red, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing at home to practice handstands.

I walked away from the class slightly disappointed: it ran way over and I had to leave early to catch a train, leading me to miss savasana and the chance to spend time with her one-on-one, and my ego was a little frustrated that we hadn’t worked on the more advanced postures, despite taking valuable lessons in fundamentals away from the session. On the long train ride back to Connecticut, I decided to pull out the tiny notebook I keep in my purse for emergency inspiration and began writing. I journaled a stream-of-consciousness more than anything, trying to keep my handwriting steady as the train rocked left, right, but when I stepped back after 30 minutes of furious scribbling, the words from Kerri above are what stood out the most.

As the thought rolled around in my head, I started to relate it to a lot that’s been happening lately in life, and not just my own but in the lives around me as well. I see it in everyone that’s gotten married or will get married this year, and I see it in the sad moments, like walking into my childhood home on Saturday, only to run upstairs and burst into tears, because for the first time in eight years, the half-golden, half-Rottweiler welcome committee wasn’t there to guide me in the house before tackling me in slobbery kisses. There are these waves of life, new beginnings with endings, sad stories with a happy ending, which can all come back to something as simple as a handstand against a wall: the wall is for strength, not balance. What you choose to fall back on in life is for strength, but not for balance. The people in our lives that support us are for strength so we can pull ourselves out, but balance is something only we can achieve.

Balance is such an interesting and fragile concept, like balancing a needle on a thread, as someone important once told me. There’s the physical aspect of balancing, but on a higher level, balance is something we’re all desperately seeking in our lives. There’s the ever-difficult quest for a work-life balance and learning how to juggle responsibilities at home and to yourself, with the constant pull for happy hours and 4am nights in the city. As I thought this weekend about balance, and the walls I’ve been using to keep me upright, I thought about how the biggest balancing act I’ve had to manage in the past six months is between the strength I’ve gained from being on my own for two years, and the balance I’m chasing between the many selves, from the 23 year old party girl, to the brokenhearted 25 year old, to the 27 year old almost-yogi I can feel still present in the LB typing this entry now.

Probably the biggest thing I took away from the class on Saturday was the ability to reassess my life right now, and decide to take a step back from handstand practice. I may have the strength to hold myself up, but in the past two weeks things have felt so off balance, it’s no wonder I’d been leaning on the wall to keep me grounded. I walked away from a workshop feeling disappointed I couldn’t push myself into a pose, but in that disappointment I’ve found a calm peace of mind. We forget sometimes that the mind and body are intrinsically connected in ways we’ll never understand. Sometimes it takes a few weeks of getting back to the fundamentals before we can push ourselves away from our support systems, and find a balance on our own two feet – or in my case, hands.

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