A Lesson in Endurance (Yoga Challenge: Day 16)

Today I learned another lesson in endurance.

I took a rest day today to go ski touring on one of the most beautiful winter days I have ever seen in The Rockies. It wasn’t much of a rest day for the body, but it felt great to get outside.

Who wouldn't pass up a day like this? Skiing across Peyto Lake towards the Peyto Glacier.

We were touring today to Peyto Hut on the Wapta Icefield, about a 10km trek in with overnight packs (and an elevation gain of over 500m). Lately, avalanche conditions have been rather ugly around here and while we hoped we would find safe passage to the hut, we did not. On top of it all, it was -30 degrees Celsius, and as we deliberated about whether or not we should continue, my body began to shake to fight off the cold. We ended up retreating back the way we came. All in all, we were out in the cold for about six hours.

Now, if there is a “Child’s Pose” of alpine ski touring it looks something like this: while standing, bend over with straight legs and position your poles in front of you so that you can actually rest your pack on the tops of your poles, allowing you to stretch out your back, neck and shoulders. This was my best friend today (it really works!) Needless to say, it was a beautiful but rough day in the outdoors.

Lesson from Day 16

I missed the yoga studio today – the warmth, candles, comfort. But as I stood outside in the cold, a few kilometres from the highway, I was thankful for the lesson in endurance that yoga has taught me through this challenge.

Forcing myself to do that extra sun salutation or hold a posture for an extra breath doesn’t sound like it comes close to a long ski out in the elements.But, the internal journey is truly the same.

Where has your internal journey taken you lately?

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.

How We Can Be Powerful When We Feel Weak (Yoga Challenge: Day 2)

Arms shaking, legs wobbling and breath laboured – I went down into Child’s Pose more than ever today.

This posture is a resting place and a chance to get your breath back into rhythm. And I didn’t want to come out of it.

Many of my yoga instructors have commented on how the way we are and feel on The Mat gives us an indication of how we are in every day life. If my yoga practice reveals anything, then, it is that I am much, much too hard on myself. I have always been this way – in athletics, academia, self-study and pretty much every other aspect of my life. I rarely go into Child’s Pose during a practice unless the instructor guides us there. Today, however, I had to succumb to this posture three or four times and each time I bent my legs and put my head on the floor I could feel myself cringing with inadequacy. What’s wrong with me today? Why am I so weak?

And yet the posture felt so nice.

Lesson from Day 2

Ironically, at the end of class, the card my instructor gave me said “Strength: Be powerful in all you do.”  But, how can we be powerful when we feel so weak?

As I sat in Child’s Pose I eventually let some tenderness come in to remind me that sometimes the strongest of people are only made stronger by giving in to their weaknesses. When we humble ourselves, let ourselves rest and reach out to others for help, we are made stronger by the community and energy that surrounds us.

Otherwise, we are like the tragic hero that believes he can somehow avoid the consequences of his overestimated sense of competence. 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.

So, I take a step back, melt into Child’s Pose and fly higher some other day.

© Meghan J. Ward, 2011.