The Mountain

Tadasana. It sounds like a fancy yoga pose, but in its barest essence, it’s just standing tall with your hands at your side. It’s the pose you come to between some of the more vigorous activities like sun salutations, and it’s a grounding pose to start and end practices; it’s meditative in its own way, standing tall. You’d think that pose would be the easiest one to “master” – it’s just standing, right? WRONG. So wrong. And I learned exactly how wrong it was to believe that in the last day of the first weekend of yoga teacher training, where our first experience in workshop-ing poses took over an hour and a half and was entirely focused on tadasana. That’s right: my first experience teaching other people how to do yoga lasted 90 minutes and all I learned was how to teach people to stand.

Why spend so much time on this one, seemingly simple pose? Because as I’ve learned and seen in the past two weeks: everything is tadasana.

There’s something about being so wholly immersed in yoga over the past two weekends that’s caused what feels like a cataclysmic shift in my entire life perspective. I’m not kidding or exaggerating there. I’m not saying that I’ve become an entirely new person, or that everything I’ve wanted or worked for isn’t relevant. I am saying that all of these little changes, from the way I carry myself to what I believe after the past 20 months of a steady asana practice has been validated, improved, solidified and then some in just eight days of study. Shifts I’ve noticed in my beliefs, my values, shifts I’ve noticed in my physical body and my once-anxious mind have become so pronounced that I look back two weeks and it’s as different as looking back at who I was two years ago. There’s something incredibly profound about having your life choices and decisions validated so completely in barely eight days. One could compare it to standing solidly on two feet.

Few of us really know how to stand up for ourselves. So few of us know how to ground into our heels, dig into our space in the ground and broaden throughout our shoulders, our chests; few of us know how to lift up through the top of our heads as if to declare loudly that this is my space in the world, this is who I am and how I live. I see it every day walking around the city, people hunching into themselves, dodging NYC foot traffic left and right, trying to be as small as possible while winding through the millions of other people doing the exact same thing. We cower into our torsos, hunched shoulders, hunched backs, protecting our heart and our breath, or in essence our life force, from any possible intrusion into someone else’s space. I would love to take credit for that analogy but I can’t – it was something our training mama said to us as we went into our second hour of learning how to stand properly. Because, she reminded us, if you can’t stand up and declare this is MY space, this is who I am, then you might as well hunch into all your crap until it’s time to deal with your karma in the next life.

I’m writing this entry from a plane ride after a quick 12-hour trip to Ohio, after a long weekend mentally and physically in the studio. We’re experiencing some turbulence but the seat next to me is empty, so it’s been a nice quiet plane ride, a view of the sunset over the horizon and the promise of those New York City lights as we descend into JFK. This type of routine disruption would normally have put me over the edge, the random flight on a Monday after 28 hours of yoga in four days and now this bouncing turbulence as we descend into a light rainstorm, but instead I’m trusting and open and happy and proud. We’ve since moved in training on from tadasana, getting into the more complicated nuances of teaching bodies that are used to crumbling in on themselves to open up. But at the core of everything we do, and in the crux of every piece of my life, I’ve learned that absolutely everything comes back to standing tall.

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