Learning from Icarus (Yoga Challenge: Day 27)

I felt a little bit weak today. But something neat happened.

I came to my mat feeling a little bit tired, for no particular reason. I struggled to want to practise today, but went to the studio regardless. The last time I wrote about feeling this way was on Day 2 of this challenge. In that post, I wrote about giving in to the weakness and being tender with ourselves. “Otherwise, we are like the tragic hero that believes he can somehow avoid the consequences of his overestimated sense of competence,” I wrote back on January 16th. “The word in Greek is hubris. In one famous story, Icarus flies too close to the Sun despite warning. Sometimes by pushing too hard to deepen each posture, I might be flying too close to the Sun.”

The Lament For Icarus, by Herbert Draper. Let Icarus remind you of how to hold back, even in your pursuit of freedom.

Poor Icarus. Such a tragic story and yet, there is something so touching and so human about his hot-headed demise. Really, the image is beautiful – Icarus, his wings outspread, soaring higher and higher, beyond where any man had gone before.  If you know the story, he is seeking freedom from imprisonment, escape from a life of shackles. But in his giddiness in the freedom to fly away, he flies too high and ends up in the sea.

Lesson from Day 27

What I gather from the story of Icarus is that in our quest for freedom from any shackles in our life, we need to push ourselves to new things while still erring on the side of reason and caution. Don’t lose sight of the end goal. There is no freedom in pushing too hard and hurting ourselves more.

What was different about today in my practise is that I didn’t need to push. Thirty days of yoga has made certain movements more intuitive and more natural than before. I am stronger – even on my weaker days  – than I was at the beginning. I didn’t fear flying too close to the Sun, or trying to go too hard in a time of weakness. The strength just came on its own and I didn’t have to think about it.


Incredibly, the card my instructor gave me at the end of class today was the exact same one as Day 2: “Strength: Be powerful in all you do.”

Sometimes being powerful means holding back a bit.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

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