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The Yoga Report

Mantra Four: Consistency is Good

Dolphin-challenged am I.

On the page, in demonstrations, dolphin pose doesn’t look that hard. Lower to your forearms, clasp your hands together lightly, shoot your butt up in the air keeping your legs straight. Inch your feet up the mat as far as you can. Not sure why, but my back is never straight, my legs want to bend, and as far as the feet go -- forget it. They are Gorilla-glued to the back of the mat. Perhaps the problem is psychosomatic: dolphin is a launch pose for … a headstand.

The dreaded inversion.

I have read all the tales of the power of turning oneself upside down. That we spend so much time sitting and standing that we need to upend our perspective. Inversions improve blood flow and help bodily systems connect more efficiently. Some even claim that inversions decrease anxiety and increase self-confidence.

I’d argue the opposite.

As other yogis gracefully raise their feet towards the ceiling, I kick like a donkey. Even against the wall, where inversion novices rehearse, I can’t get one foot above my waist, let alone two. With assistance, I once did a handstand but neglected to announce my return to earth and kicked my poor assistant in the nose. Stress reducer? Hardly.

During Saturday’s vinyasa class, one of the week’s hardest at Repose, we worked our way to dolphin. I tried. Briefly. But the feet wouldn’t move and the neck hurt and the arms screamed, “Stop!” And so I took Option 1: child pose. As others viewed the world upside down, I lay curled up, legs and head tucked safely underneath.

Ordinarily, I’m happy to opt out of inversions. Yet this choice felt cowardly. My yoga experiment – one month of daily classes – is only a week long but I do feel braver, more confident. The sequences are becoming routine. Reverse swan dive, hand to heart, forward bend. I can flow from Warrior One to Two to Three. I don’t have to check with my neighbor about triangle or side plank alignment. Even the Hindi terms – Utkatasana, Tadasana, Balasana – are beginning to stick. No longer do I think Chattanooga when I hear Chatauranga. I’ve even popped into wheel and held it for a few breaths.

I shouldn’t be surprised that yoga, like everything, becomes easier with repetition, that what once seemed foreign and unmanageable can become familiar and possible. Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t wrong when she told Mr. Darcy that to better his social skills all he need do was practice.

As I head into Week Two of this yoga journey, perhaps all I, like Jane Austen’s indomitable hero, need do is practice. Who knows? Some day my feet might even leave the floor.

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