What the plow has taught me

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One of the women who attend my Saturday morning yoga classes told me today that she has a stack of yoga DVDs at home. Before I had started offering morning yoga classes over the weekend at the multipurpose hall in the apartment building that we both happen to live in, she had took to rely on those DVDs.

“But you know how it goes, practicing yoga alone in front of a TV is just not the same as attending a class”

And I couldn’t agree more. Although many respected websites out there now offering subscription based online videos to aid a home practice, a live class guided by an experienced instructor is still an essential part of one’s practice. A human touch is beneficial for those times when attempting a new pose, or when the desire to explore further into an advanced variation of a pose sets in. Most importantly, the presence of another person helps guide and encourages the other safely into the intended pose.

Without this very same method of human interaction, I know for a fact I would not have been able to experience what it feels like to be in a full halasana, or the plow pose.

I had been practicing on and off for the last six years, and consistently in the last three. Throughout all these years, each time the teacher brings forth the dreaded plow, I would slowly bring myself up to a salambasana, the shoulder pose. And then with much fear, fold over attempting to touch the floor above my head with both of my feet.

Somehow the floor always feels like it was miles away from my toes each time I attempt the pose. So for months, I would hover my toes above my head, never really knowing how far they were from the floor. Convinced I would never reach into the full pose and filled with fear that if I try to reach a little further, I would twist my neck and break it into two.

There was an instance I finally got to experience what it really feels like to have your toes touching the ground above your head. It was in a different studio, with a teacher who possessed the cheer of radiant sunlight in her. Seeing that I was struggling into the pose she held my hips firmly and told me to keep reaching for the floor.

“You are very very close, really” she said as she encouraged me on.

This was the point I learned complete trust in another person. Although at that point it must have not felt anything like trust to my teacher as I fiercely gripped onto her ankles, fearful of what I would feel once I reach into the full pose. 

This fear felt strangely familiar, much like the fear of letting go of a relationship or a career that is not aligned to your purpose anymore because the unknown is terribly scary. To learn to make decisions in these situations however, require complete trust not in someone else, but in yourself.

During my training course, and through the guidance of my teachers and wonderful coursemates, I learned to move in and out of the plow on my own. Once, a kind coursemate who was watching from the side, grabbed a block and placed it right underneath my hovering toes,

“There, you are only about as far away from the floor as the height of this block”

When fear is put into context, and in this case the height of a block, how tiny it seems in respect to the vastness of possibility of the things you can achieve.

The halasana was my first milestone in learning about myself through yoga. And I credit this to the number of teachers that has stood behind me, while I gripped intensely on their ankles and calves, and the wonderful soul who taught me to put my fears within context before we could conquer it. Certainly, none of this would have been possible without having the presence and patience of a human soul. 

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