Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love letters to everyone

"You simply give... you don't be concerned about the address... you simply go on sending the love letters... Somebody will receive it somewhere...and the more you go sharing... the more goes on entering in you from unknown sources..."  ~ Osho

I saw this quote posted by a lovely yogini this weekend, and it's been bouncing around in my head for the last couple of days.  Love letters to no one.  Love letters to everyone.

There are a few literal interpretations that come to mind.  The first one I thought of (for a few different reasons) is writing.  Any time you write something in a public forum, you're sending out a bit of yourself, and you don't know where it's going to end up.  But you keep sending anyways.  And every now and then (as happened to me a couple days ago), you get a crystal-clear confirmation that yes, you are coming through loud and clear.  Somebody receives it somewhere.

I also thought of our Bikram teachers, who stand in front of a room of people every day - sometimes a room of familiar faces, sometimes a room of strangers - and give us these same instructions, day in and day out, in the belief that something they say will always get through to someone, sooner or later, even if they never know who or when or how.  You simply give.  One of my teachers once said, "It's like ringing a doorbell.  You know someone's home, but maybe they're asleep.  You just keep ringing that doorbell until something happens."  They're not doing it for themselves.  They're doing it for us.

I also thought of our yoga practice.  Sometimes when I practice, I can feel this amazing energy pouring out of me, and it doesn't matter where it goes.  I just send it out.  Maybe sometimes another student gets it, maybe the teacher gets it, maybe it goes to a friend of mine who is thousands of miles away.  I'm not concerned about the address.

But most of all, I though of a change that came over me after I'd been practicing Bikram yoga for a while.  I remember that I used to go through life feeling separate from other people.  (No more or less separate than I imagine everyone else feels.)  I would walk through the city feeling negatively towards the strangers around me - feeling impatience, judgment, mistrust, annoyance, suspicion, or just indifference.  And then, yoga.  And then, at some point, a switch flipped.  I found myself walking through the city after yoga practice feeling this overwhelming affection, gentleness, and compassion for all the strangers around me.  Towards absolutely everyone.  It would last throughout the day.  Then throughout the week, the month, the year.  Not always lit up like a beacon - those bursts are much more rare - but burning steadily, quietly, like a pilot light underneath everything, always ready to burst into full flame.

This is something so inexplicable to me that I rarely bring it up in detail.  But I was speaking with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago, a Bikram teacher, and she described an experience that absolutely was identical to mine.  And as strange as this (still) is, there's only one word that we could find in our vocabulary to describe the emotion. 


For everyone.

You simply go on sending the love letters.  And the more you go on sharing, the more goes on entering in you from unknown sources.


Note:  The person who spoke those words, Osho, is a very interesting figure whom I'd never heard of before.  I read his Wikipedia page and it sounds like he had one heck of a life.  I don't know enough about him to pass judgment one way or another, but the affection for fancy cars definitely reminded me of another crazy Indian who we all know and love...

Friday, September 25, 2009


(This makes me laugh EVERY time.)

As much as I hate this distinction between "good classes" and "bad classes" (because EVERY class is a good class except for the one that you don't go to), there is no denying that there are some days when you feel like a freaking rockstar and other days when you feel like puking into your towel or just taking a hot nap.

So with that as a disclaimer, here are some correlations that I have noticed between things that happen inside the yoga room and outside the yoga room.  (Some of these are less profound than others.)

I might have a not-so-good class after:

I wake up at 8am, practice at noon, and having nothing to eat in that time frame except grapefruit juice and cheddar cheese flavored Chex Mix.  (That one is painfully fresh in my memory.)

I have had a really unproductive day or week of research.

I stay up really late for no apparent reason.

I don't see the sun for a long time.

I spend all day in lab and get nothing done.

The weather gets warm and I'm not ready for it.

I have a great class the day before and become overconfident.

I have a terrible class the day before and totally lose confidence.

I might have a ROCK STAR class after:

I go to Staples, buy a new file folder, and organize my life!  (I did this yesterday and had a KILLER class last night.)

I have lots of good meetings at work that make me feel productive and optimistic about my research.

I spend all day in lab and get SOMETHING done.

I talk to someone else about yoga and get them excited about it.  (Always makes me more excited, too.)

I stay up really late seeing a new band or looking at the stars and having fun with friends.

The weather gets warm and I drink tons of nice juices and water so I am TOTALLY ready for it.

I have a lousy class the day before and decide to overcome it.

I have a rock star class the day before and decide that today will be even better!

The main thing that I notice as I try to write this list is that it's not so much the events in my day that determine my state of mind.  It's my response to those events that always makes the difference!  Or to quote Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (omg GEEK!!!): "[The time you live in] is not for you to decide.  All that you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."  Very nice, I love Tolkein.  Now I'd better go and make the most of the end of my week so I can have a great yoga class tonight!  Maybe I can get ahead of the curve before next week... that'd be great....

What about you guys?  Any surprising life-to-yoga correlations that you've noticed?  (The yoga-to-life correlations will have to be the subject of a WHOLE other post.  Or book.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Never apologize, never explain!

"Never apologize, never explain. It's not a bad two-rule maxim for life, all things considered, but it's not very helpful when it comes to writing afterwords for books. After all, the only reason people read afterwords is for some kind of explanation for what they've read, if they haven't understood it, or for some kind of apology, if they have."  - Neil Gaiman

I am currently in the process of missing (or rather skipping) my last opportunity to go to a Bikram class today.  (In the middle of a 30/60 day thingie, no less.)  Instead, I am sitting on my couch digesting the guacamole, cheese, and chips that I decided to eat about an hour ago.  I was hungry, they were leftovers, and they were delicious.  But you know what?  Never apologize, never explain!!  I am not going to apologize for this!!  (Though technically, I guess I did just explain it.  Clearly, I am not taking myself literally.)

I think a lot of us have this knee-jerk need to explain or apologize for our "bad classes."  I've certainly done it plenty of times, sidling up to the desk after a wobbly class and dropping a comment about dehydration or sleep deprivation or burritos.  But why?  I've never had a teacher respond with, "Oh good, thanks for apologizing, cause I was really annoyed about that part when you fell out of standing bow."  Our teachers don't mind that we have "bad days."  They understand it, they expect it, and a lot of the time... honestly, they don't even notice it.  The world doesn't revolve around me.  There are plenty of other people in the room to draw the teacher's attention, and from the outside, most "bad days" look pretty similar to the normal ones.  So the apology isn't REALLY for the teacher's benefit, is it?  So why DO we have the impulse to say these things?  Misplaced guilt over our imperfections, over our own humanity...?

This yoga, with the hard work and sweat and intensity, can feel like an atonement sometimes.  We go in there and sweat out our sins - the foods, the booze, the sleepless nights, the emotional baggage - right?

The thing is, I don't really want to atone.  I'd rather just own the things that I do and the choices that I make, even when they are stupid or silly.  Especially then!  Because none of us can be perfect.  That's not even an appropriate goal, at the end of the day.  All we can be is ourselves - struggling, sweating, trying, standing up, falling down, fucking it up, putting it back together, trying again.  Human.  So be human.  Unapologetically.

My friend reminded me of a lovely line from my favorite book this weekend: "You have to do the pose wrong a thousand times before you can do it right once."  I like this, because reminds me that we are doing the right thing by being imperfect.  The only way to "get it right" is by making a hundred, a thousand, even a million mistakes first.  Never feel badly about that!  Just accept it, appreciate it, and keep on keeping on.

DISCLAIMER: DO, of course, remember to mention something that might be relevant, like an injury or surgery, to your teacher before class... help them to help you!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Give and Take (or The Law of Increasing Returns)

Wow, I haven't written in a week - that was a long time for me!  I will not apologize for this, because I keep thinking of the saying "never apologize, never explain" and I think there's something to it!  But more on that later.  I really did miss writing, though!!

I've had a house guest all weekend - another visiting teacher from LA - and it's been absolutely wonderful to have her here.  She came in on Friday evening and I think we must have spent hours that first night just talking yoga.  She taught the double at my studio yesterday morning (I took ONE of the classes) and then we spent the afternoon exploring downtown Santa Barbara.  Then I made an avocado-kale salad for dinner and we hung out on the couch with my roomies and watched Dirty Dancing and Mask of Zorro.  It was great.

I've got her reading "How Yoga Works" (which she can't put down), and we had such GREAT conversations about Bikram yoga - the teaching of it, the practice of it, the dialogue, the people, everything.  I have so many ideas and beliefs bouncing around in my head that it is always awesome when I get a chance to just TALK.  But here's the cool thing.  My friend thinks that I am pretty smart and she loved the stuff that I had to say.  So that made her get really energized again about teaching and yoga and dialogue and all of it.  And as soon as she got this energy from me, I got WAY more energy from her!  It was this perfect upward spiral.  The more I gave to her, the more I got back for myself, so I just kept giving and offering as much as possible, and she kept taking it and passing it back to me, and it made me feel incredible.

One of the huge ideas in the beginning of that book (How Yoga Works) is that you can't just do your yoga practice for yourself.  That's not powerful enough.  What really will make it stick is if you do it for someone else.  Literally.  You do it so that you can be there for your family, so that you can be a better friend, so that you can do better at your job (assuming your job is also something that benefits the rest of the world)... and most of all, you do the yoga and try to bring yourself to some higher state so that other people can follow where you have gone.

I took my friend's class again this morning (which was awesome) and then we practiced together before she drove back down to LA, just the two of us going through and working on our postures, and I don't know if I've ever experienced that "give and take" principle so tangibly before.  It was actually physical.  This friend is working on a lot of the same things that I used to struggle with, so I was able to share quite a lot with her, and it was a pure joy.  And even though I was focused on her instead of myself, I couldn't help notice that my own postures were significantly better than I expected them to be.  My body was SO there for me.  I did a couple of totally new things.  And there was no reason or explanation for my own progress (my practice has been a bit of a wreck recently) - except for this.  You get whatever you give.  Maybe it's clique, maybe it's a platitude... but isn't it also TRUE?  Maybe this is how the world really works.  I'm getting more convinced all the time...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bikram Connection

Ok, first of all, don't all start singing "The Rainbow Connection"... oh geez, it's already too late.  Yikes.  I'm already on YouTube now watching Kermit and Debbie Harry

My topic was supposed to be the Bikram connection, which is even more awesome than rainbows.  Hah.

I am feeling contemplative on a rainy Sunday, and I was thinking: I just love how Bikram yoga is such a tight community.  Sometimes it's ridiculous how connected we all are.  Maybe it is a side effect of the big group trainings that everyone goes through together?  But it's great.  Every time I meet someone who's done Bikram yoga somewhere else, we have an immediate bond, and half the time we can find common friends or acquaintances.  I've found a new example of this almost every day this week!  I had a friend over at my house on Friday night who used to teach at my studio in Boston and has since moved to LA.  She taught the 8am and 10am classes on Saturday morning (I took them both), and then we caught up over lunch.  It was so great to take class at my "new" studio with someone from my original "home" studio!  Then this morning, I was working at the desk for the morning classes, and I signed up a girl who had just moved here from Boston and who knew my old studio owners.  (I was actually wearing my Red Sox t-shirt and Bikram Yoga Boston sweatshirt when she came in, just to make things OBVIOUS!)  Earlier this week, I visited another studio farther up north and took class from a guy who had just graduated from teacher training and was in the same posture clinic group as a couple of my friends.  This kind of thing happens ALL the time.

The connections definitely extend into the blogging section of the Bikram world.  I don't think any of us are more than a couple degrees of separation apart (NOT counting this blog).  I mean, I practiced at bikramyogachick's studio when I passed through Vegas (and will probably see her there at some point this Fall), Duffy is taking classes from teachers who I used to practice with in Boston (I used to see Connease on Tuesdays!), hannahjustbreathe arrived at my Boston studio right after I left it (and I ended up meeting her in the locker room when I was back there visiting), and ActionJoJo and I met each other in the lobby of Charlie's studio (after she'd already started randomly reading my blog).  And yes, Mei, I will be meeting up with you to create some mayhem when you get out of TT this winter.  And these are just SOME examples.

Speaking of which, thank you all for heading over to Charlie's new blog, Noho Yoga, this weekend and giving him a great welcome.  I think I have the best readers.  (If you haven't visited him yet, you definitely should!)

There are plenty of times when I really miss my original "yoga family", but it's a silly reason to be sad, because I've kept in great touch with so many of them (thank you, Facebook...) and I will always be connected to everyone who I've ever taken class from, practiced with, or just sat around with all afternoon and talked to about yoga.  (Blood is thicker than water, but did anyone ever say anything about sweat??)

There's been a lot of... er... stress in the Bikram studio community over the past month or so.  (If you don't know what I'm referring to, do yourself a favor and stay happily ignorant.  Seriously.  This is the first and last time that I will reference this issue, at least until something majorly dramatic happens.)  But... what's the worst thing that can happen?  There are hundreds of thousands of connections that bind us all together, and nothing can just come in and erase those!  If anything, maybe a little conflict is just what is needed to bring us all closer together.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

P.S.  I thought about continuing my reader participation theme from the "Classic One-Liners" thread (which must be my favorite comment thread EVER) and trying to come up with the 1 or 2 degrees of separation between all of us... but geez, that must be a MESS.  How would we even go about it?  Flow chart?  Map?  Family tree??  But if anyone is bored/crazy/intrigued enough to take a whack at this idea, it is ALL yours.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Blogger in Town!! "60 in 60 at 60"

I have only one objective tonight: pimping out my friend's new blog!!

My awesome friend Charlie is new to blogging, but not to yoga! He started Bikram in 2002, went to training in LA in 2005, and bought his studio shortly after. He actually owns the studio in my hometown in western Massachusetts, which is how I met him a couple years ago. I always take his class when I make it home for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, we sit around yapping about yoga until I remember that I'm neglecting my actual family members, and we have a great time.

Anyway, Charlie has started a blog to chronicle his new challenge: 60 classes in 60 days, finishing on his 60th birthday. How cool is that?! Never too old, never too late. I think he's actually getting younger every year. (His doctors must be baffled.) His introductory post is here:
NoHo Yoga.

My request to all my lovely, hilarious, and insightful readers is this: everybody head over to Charlie's blog and drop him a comment to say "hi!" (I promised him that I would be an awesome blog consultant/pimp, so you'll be making ME look good!) ;-) Let's see if we can give him a little encouragement to get those blogging juices flowing...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Classic One-Liners

If you are looking for a deep, eloquent, and insightful essay on yoga, you will not find that here tonight. Instead, I feel like going for pure fluff and recounting some of my favorite one-liners and bloopers. Because I was getting the giggles with one of my friends before class this evening (ok, and a little bit during pranayama, too...) and it is fun.

Sometimes it's the little things that will set you off. One time I went to an afternoon class with a girlfriend of mine (full disclosure: we had banana cream pie and margaritas a few hours before class) and we were just finding EVERYTHING funny. I thought we were gonna get kicked out! This woman near us gave this big dramatic SIGH and we pretty much lost it. Then in full locust, our adorable Japanese teacher said "745 taking off!!" instead of "747" and I spent the entire pose giggling uncontrollably. That was a GOOD day.

I love it when the teachers tell me off (because they always do it with good humor and love). One of my favorite put-downs ever was from that same, ever-so-sweet teacher, who told me during savasana: "J. Heels should be touching. What the hell is wrong with you. You do perfect standing bow but cannot do savasana. I will throw you out from the studio." Totally deadpan. I LOVED this.

My other all-time favorite put-down was from the owner of another studio. I went back to visit and take her class last winter after winning 3rd place in the SoCal regionals, so I'm in class doing my locked-out, award-winning standing bow, feelin' alright about myself, and she goes, "J, touch your SHOULDER to your CHIN. Now I know why 3rd place!!"

And of course I have a special place in my heart for the time Bikram bitched me out personally in cobra pose, on my 2nd day in LA, while I was taking Emmy's class. "Miss Red! Hands-palms FLAT! You know what "flat" means?!?" (He was across the room and my hands looked pretty flat to me. It was almost a year later that I realized he must have been looking at my shoulders!!)

Of course I believe in a supportive environment, but the beat-downs are all be in good fun, and they are also funny as hell. A collection of a few other REAL quotes (with names omitted to protect the not-so-innocent):

"Open your legs more, use your high school experience."

"I have no idea what you're trying to do, look at everyone else, you're not even close, brother."

"You need to look at yourself in the mirror, because then you will be so horrified at what you see there that you might actually do something about it."

"Sir... we just had a conversation in the lobby twenty minutes ago... you appeared most chipper and buoyant then. I have observed your practice for the last fifteen minutes, and I am rather confident that within that timeframe I did not witness any exertion on such a grand scale that would justify such a lovely rendition of child's pose now. Please stand and re-join your fellow comrades for second set. We will wait."

At end of class: "Good job, boss, You took all of my shit. I appreciate that."

A couple random Bikramisms from last summer..

"I heard Pluto not a planet anymore? What happened?!"

"Touch your H. E. E. L. heel, like in Beverly Heels!!"

"Everybody coming to my disco party tonight?"

When nobody is standing on 2nd line: "What is wrong with this line, somebody shit on it? Everybody move up!"

Sometimes it gets a little political...

Bikram, the day after McCain picked a woman as his running mate: "I heard a Republican did a smart thing yesterday, first time ever!!"

Another teacher, in 2nd part awkward pose (repeated in EVERY class): "Your thighs should shake and shiver... like Jerry Falwell... watching Brokeback Mountain."

(What was even funnier was the studio owner's total exasperation as she told him, "Dude... you can't use the exact same jokes, in the exact same place, every time you teach class...")

And there are always the bloopers, like my friend who tried to say, "These postures are really quick" for spine strengthening series, and instead said, "These postures are really sick." That still makes me laugh.

This one's not even mine, but some girl on a Facebook board told a great story that cracked me up. She's about 2 months out of training, and Craig Villani (TT director) is taking her class. In half tortoise, she gets the idea that she wants to say "put your hands together like you're clapping," and instead she says "hands together like you've got the clap..."

I think the new teachers are totally adorable when they get flustered and just start playing "body part Mad Libs" with the dialogue (if you know what I mean). I totally sympathize. The last time I tried to say the dialogue for triangle to someone (you know, just for fun), I kept saying "left chin" for some reason. I couldn't help myself! I was trying to say "touch your chin to your left shoulder" and just kept going "touch your left chin to you lef- UH OH... Your left chin to your left- 'left chin?!' WHAT am I saying?! Touch... your... *don'tsayleft, don'tsayleft, dont'sayleft*.... CHIN... to your... LEFT... SHOULDER." It was like the hardest thing I ever said in my life. I have no idea why.

Ok guys, your turn... what are the lines that have made you snort water out of your nose during party time? Tell, tell, tell!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The great outdoors!

Went hiking with my sister this afternoon.  Yay!  I like the outdoors!!  It really is very pretty around here.

Hiking is one of those things that makes me appreciate how well yoga works as total body conditioning.  Cause outside of yoga, I spend 90% of my time sitting on my butt at a desk or in a lab.  But when I decided to get up and go climb a mountain for a few hours, my body is SO ready for it!  I've got aerobic stamina and everything.  I wouldn't quite say I'm in the best shape of my life, but I feel pretty freaking good.

Also - took fun pictures!  Whee!!  My sister likes playing with her camera, and I like playing with yoga.  Good combination.

Great shot....


Some people left a heart on top of the mountain...

Under the electrical tower!  Feeling clever, I guess.  :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Whoa now.  Whatever I've been doing to myself this week, I think it is working.  Today's class was this awesome "perfect storm" where all the conditions came together for me to have probably the best class I've had in months.

First of all, summer has FINALLY, just now, hit my town.  And I totally forgot how much I love practicing Bikram during the hot weather.  You're nice and pre-heated!  It takes 0.2 seconds to warm up!  You can break a sweat before you even get into the room!  My body is loving this.

Also, I did a bunch of warm-up backbends before class, working mainly on my middle and upper back.

Also, it's almost the full moon?!?

Whatever the reason, I got 10 minutes into class tonight and realized that I had superpowers.  No lie.  That is the word that came into my head.  This occurred to me when I was at the depth of the half moon backbend, second set.  I actually felt this very distinct curve in the upper half of my spine as my upper body curved closer to my leg.  I knew for a long time that this was theoretically supposed to happen, but I'd never felt it like that.  And then, when I rolled my eyes up a little bit, I suddenly had a very clear view of back of my calf muscle.  Not even the ankle - the bottom of the freaking calf muscle.  (Usually on a good day I can see my heels, just out of the corner of my eye.)  I literally froze (as my brain shouted "does not compute!!"), mouthed "WHOA" to myself, and then came out.

After that, class was totally awesome, because not only was my spine doing great, but my confidence was fantastic.  I went through the next 15 minutes still in "holy crap" mode.  But then in the balancing series, as soon as I started to feel a little wobble or tremble, my brain told me, "You can't fall today!  You have superpowers!!"  And then, because I knew that I couldn't fall, I didn't fall.  Now that was a pretty cool trick, and I recommend it to everyone!  The hard part, I guess, is convincing yourself that for one reason or another, you do have superpowers.  But once you've got that idea in your head, you are SET...

I told my teacher about my superpowers after class, and she said that she was feeling some crazy superpowers too, while she was teaching, so maybe we were in a freaking force field or something.

Of course tomorrow, my class will probably suck!!!!  Because that's how it goes.  Day by day.  :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back in focus / Focus in the back

I sure am having an interesting yoga week. :)

After I did possibly the deepest backbend of my life, not once, but three times in a row on Sunday, you can imagine that I felt WICKED smart when I felt a sudden sharp sensation in my lower back during class on Monday. It wasn't acutely painful, but it was acute, and completely unfamiliar. It scared me! I've never had ANY form of lower back pain before. I've also been given doom-and-gloom predictions from several people about how I'm going to kill my lower back if I don't fix my backbends. But why would this be happening now?! I spent all weekend focusing on doing backbends that didn't rely on my flexy lower back. Although there was that cobra... damn... yeah... but it felt so great at the time, not forced at all! But in hindsight, maybe I was pushing my luck by doing it three times in a row? (Do not try at home, kids.)

Anways. My back was a little tweaked. And let me tell you, it got my attention!! I snapped into focus as soon as I felt that weird sensation. And it was funny, because if you'd asked me before that moment, "are you focusing?" I would have said, "yeah, sure, of course." But after I felt that tweak? My focus was magnified about 10 times. It brought me ALL the way into my body. I went through the rest of the class really cautiously, by the book, with intense focus on my spine, my stomach, and my technique.

The next day, I went into class with a little trepidation and a lot of determination. I went in like an explorer. "Ok, let's see what's going on in here today." There were no more really sharp sensations, just some soreness. I started the class feeling totally bummed out - "I can't believe I messed up my back!" And then during half moon, the thought popped into my head: "Can this be a gift?" And that idea stuck with me. There's new information coming to the surface. Take it as a gift. Study it. Use it. Learn from it. If you can't go into that usual backbend, where do you go instead? What makes the yoga protective? Where are the safety features in the postures?

This morning, my lower back was still kind of tender, but my class was great. My focus felt rock solid. Stomach, spine, and technique. Still not going into the very deepest backbend, but so what? I didn't follow my usual habits. I paid attention to the mechanics of my spine from start to finish. And after class, my teacher (who sees me in class ALL the time), said "WOW, you are looking REALLY good right now." I asked her what looked good. She said camel. I told her that I had "broken my back!" this weekend and she was totally surprised.

How about that??

Always, always learning.

And apparently (according to my on-call backbend expert!), it's fairly normal to feel weird soreness that passes really quickly after going super deep for the first time. I guess I can buy that. But I think I will also be a little more judicious the next time I venture out to the edge of my frontier...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The infinite frontier

I was musing over my own thought processes today.  I was so totally excited to do a fancy new trick with my body this weekend.  But WHY?  Why does that kind of thing matter to me, and should it even matter?  Are these just "stupid human tricks" or do they have a real purpose?

I think that the asanas do matter, but mainly because of the process that we go through to get to the posture, not because of some inherent value to the posture itself.

The process is so empowering.  I think that the cycle is always the same.  You see a posture and you think "oh holy crap, that is never going to be me."  But then for some reason, you keep trying.  You keep going to class.  You concentrate, you meditate.  (The object of the concentration does not matter, the concentration itself matters, but there still has to be an object.)  You keep the faith and you keep practicing.  And then, one day, your body does go there.  At many times it's a gradual, infinitesimal change, and other times it is breathtakingly sudden.  In any case, the "impossible" becomes your reality.   So then you know... those limitations that you've set on yourself, since the day you were born... they don't even exist.

And then... you get to do it all again!  This is one of the things I find brilliant in the yoga system.  There is always another goal to work towards, another frontier.  There are a very few "final frontiers" that a very small number of people will approach, but for the most part, the frontier is infinite.  (The road goes ever on and on....)

For me, full cobra is one posture where I can witness the progress of my personal frontier.  When I first tried this asana - which was two years ago TODAY, in fact!!! - I couldn't even get my toes to touch my head, which is the first step.  Not even close.  A few months later, I saw a picture of one of the yoga champions in full cobra with his feet tucked under his chin, and it blew my mind.  It seemed absolutely impossible.  Two days ago, I did it myself.  That's my process.  But for different people, of course, the object can be anything.  Holding awkward pose for the full time.  Locking the top leg in standing bow.  Wrapping the leg in eagle.  Seeing the floor in a backbend.  Seeing the WALL in a backbend.  Touching your toes, with straight legs, for the first time in your adult life.  Doing camel pose, at all.  Doing all the postures.  Getting through that first 90 minute class without leaving the room.  All these accomplishments can be equally important, equally vital, equally powerful.  

And I think that there is something very special about the first frontier.  I still believe thatnothing compares to the courage of stepping into that hot room for the first time, exposed and unprepared, and saying "Ok, here I am.  I am going to stay.  I am going to try."

I have to offer up a quote from Nelson Mandela's inaugural speech, because this is all that I am really trying to say.  I could write a whole essay on this little piece, but I'll let it speak for itself.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."