Last week I was traveling, which is such a great opportunity to catch up on guilty pleasures which in my case is listening to TED talks. I was so inspired by Aimee Mullins’ talk that I had to share. She was born with a rare condition which left her without fibulae in her legs. At her birth, her parents were told she would never walk or have a "normal", mobile, independent life, and her legs were amputated just below the knee around her first birthday. One might put the label “disabled” on such a person, but she subsequently went on to learn how to walk with prosthetics, created the industry standard for athletic prosthetic legs, and became an Olympic track runner setting world records in 2 events. This is only one of a very long list of accomplishments including becoming the youngest person ever to have top-secret security clearance at the Pentagon. She has graced the covers of Life, Vogue, and Bazaar magazines as a model, and has become a spokesperson for WSF (Women’s Sports Foundation) among other leadership and inspirational roles. “Disabled” doesn’t seem to fit…
Aimee’s talk was about how she achieved the amazing things that she did not IN SPITE of adversity, but BECAUSE of it. She never got the message “disabled” from the people around her, and from a very young age she learned that it was her attitude and her work ethic that was more important than the circumstances of her birth. She goes on to say “Success and happiness are not dependent on having overcome adversity; it's not something that happens when you get to the other side. It's not an obstacle we have to get around to get on with living our life, it's part of our life. The question is not whether you're going to meet adversity, it's how.”
One approach to facing adversity is to develop a sense of curiosity. In his book the 6 Qualities of Consciousness, which we are using as inspiration this month at Shree, Danny Arguetty says: “The Tantric teachings of Yoga invite us into inquiry without a specific singular way to engage them. Instead we are invited into inquiry. We are offered the opportunity to take a seed concept and sculpt it in a way that helps us enhance our vitality, energy, creativity, and heart.” In the case of Aimee Mullins, this concept could have been “disabled”, but she instead took her particular situation and saw it as an opportunity to create something new. Her prosthetic legs became the model for all athletic prosthetics – they didn’t exist before her and her particular disability and now have gone on to help hundreds of athletes perform at their best.
Danny goes on to say “In the face of specific challenges as well as in the course of daily living, these Tantric teachings help us Connect to our inherent skillfulness and empowered presence through consistent practice with a mindset of inquiry.” Ms. Mullins talked about looking at her circumstances as a possibility rather than a disability. I know for myself my challenges and injuries have all led to greater awareness and understanding, even though when I was in the midst of dealing with them it sucked. We don't know what we're made of until were tested and that's the gift adversity gives us - the ability to see our own power and what we are capable of. We often don’t know until we are called to dig deep.
When we come at our lives from a spirit of inquiry we see opportunities for growth. A different pathway than the one you expected is often jarring, but approaching it with curiosity lets us see possibility and potency rather than restriction. How often do we come to our mats with a fixed mindset of what and how things will play out? We tell ourselves “I can’t because….” Those thoughts become the seed concepts we develop. So when we come to our mats with a spirit of open curiosity, or a mindful intention of what we wish to cultivate, we sculpt our experience in a way that enhances our practice and life rather than staying stuck in self-limiting patterns. It makes the impossible seem possible. This is what I love about thoughtfully sequenced yoga - that even if the final pose is not available right now there's something you can do about it to make it available in the future.
There will always be challenges. I tell my children all the time, you cannot change your circumstances – what happens happens. All you can change is your reaction. We don't need to get rid of adversity we just need to get good at it.
Off the Mat:
Examine your “seed concepts” – the things you believe about yourself. Ideas that start with “I can’t do that because…” or “I’ll never be able to….” or “My body doesn’t….” etc. Try replacing those statements with “I’m going to try doing…and see what happens.” “This may take some time.” “I’m going to train my body to…”
On the Mat:
Approaching challenging poses, whether that is a Warrior II with good alignment, or balancing in handstand is daunting if you don’t have a plan. Just trying the pose over and over without proper warm up and strength building won’t get you very far. Look up sequences and exercises to help you get ther – message me and I’m happy to send mine! Everything is possible if you are working in a thoughtful, progressive and sequential way. In my Monday class we worked towards Eka hasta bhujasana to eka pada koundinyasana II with lots of core work, hip openers and hand balancing prep.
For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Open up to the possibilities this practice has to offer you.
Open to a deeper breath and open your mind to a spirit of inquiry.
When I call the pose, come at it as if it's the first time, sculpt it from an inner experience of wanting to shine radiantly in whatever form it ultimately takes.
Ground your hands and ground yourself in who you are and who you have the capacity to become.
Muscular Energy: Muscles embrace bones to embrace the situation at hand wholeheartedly
Hug midline and draw into a place inside of complete confidence in yourself and your abilities.
Hug midline to pull into your inherent skillfulness.
Hug midline and connect to your empowered presence.
Organic Energy: Spread your self-confidence through the whole form of the pose.
Let your inherent skillfulness shine brilliantly wherever you find yourself in the pose.
Radiate your empowered presence from the inside out.