Posted by: Bruce Black | July 15, 2008


I need to practice patience on the mat.

In yesterday morning’s class, our teacher pointed out a slight adjustment for us to make when we kicked up into our handstands.

To prepare us for the pose, he asked us to do the “division of labor” at our mats (rather than at the wall), demonstrating how our kicking leg should remain straight (just as the leg that we lifted over our heads should be extended).

Then we moved to the wall, and he showed us how to inner-spiral our kicking leg so that our hips as we kicked into the handstand would remain level.

If we puffed up our back, he added, we might be able to add lightness to our kick and avoid arching our lower spine.

But it was one thing to hear him describe and demonstrate these minor adjustments. It was quite another to implement them in my own pose.

After a few kicks, I found myself growing impatient with myself… comparing the height of my kicks to the kicks of other students in the class… wondering why I couldn’t go upside down as easily, as lightly, or with as much grace as some of the others.

I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t trying to copy anyone else’s pose. I was only trying to do my own.

So, I started again, knelt on all fours, pushed up into down-dog, and stepped in toward the wall with my left leg to kick up into a handstand.

I concentrated on keeping my hips level, my legs straight, and inhaled as I lifted my leg over my head.

Each time I kicked up, I was able to hold the pose a micro-second longer.

Only when I stopped comparing myself to the other students could I focus on the elements of my own pose–melting my shoulders, tucking my tailbone, kicking with straight legs, breathing.

Before we finished the pose, I managed to kick into the handstand without touching the wall and hold it for a few breaths.

I’d tried for months to find that place, upside-down, where I could balance without relying on the wall. And, suddenly, I’d found it.

Impatience had only clouded my vision; patience helped clear it.

That’s something I need to remember the next time I start to feel impatient with myself.

Journal Practice: What about you? Do you ever find yourself feeling impatient? Not just on your mat but during the day… at work, say, or standing on line at the grocery store? Can you describe what triggers the impatience? And then can you write about how you overcame your impatience? What did you discover in the process?


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