Laughing plank

I went to a long class-cum-workshop at the weekend. Honestly it wasn’t quite what I expected but of course I learned heaps from it nonetheless. It was a deliberately very challenging sequence with the explicit aim of ‘pushing our buttons’ and seeing what happened, providing a laboratory for us individually to observe our responses and reactions. I used to hate this kind of thing; I felt inadequate to a regular class, with my buttons being pushed very easily as I felt weak and vulnerable apparently surrounded by much stronger bodies and minds than mine.

I’m a little wiser now. And I’m a little more able to observe and not get caught up in the narratives.

A couple of moments make me smile thinking back on this class:

Handstand (against the wall) in the warmup. Something I’d not have thought possible even a couple of weeks ago. My only attempts at handstand in class were when my teacher was assisting me and 100% giving me his attention, otherwise I just felt completely overwhelmed and terrified. This class the second attempt saw me prettily happily upside-down! And suddenly my work was in trying not to perform it as ‘smug-āsana’ when I realised with surprise that I was one of only three people able to get up and stay up.

Later a fiendish variation of plank involving stacking the feet while extending one arm forward. I have no idea how successfully the other students kept their alignment in this one. I tried to correct my hips lifting and swinging out to the side, wobbled, then toppled over with a total lack of grace and I burst out laughing as I hit the mat hard. And I was genuinely so happy that the guy next to me laughed as well — I was making someone else happy too!

Other than the tough physical stuff, we did some beautiful chanting of some ślokas from the Bhagavad Gītā and a couple of mantas including the well-known lines from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad which I alway find so moving:

Lead me from falsehood to truth
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to immortality

Om Asato Mā Sad-Gamaya |
Tamaso Mā Jyotir-Gamaya |
Mrtyor-Mā Amrtam Gamaya |
Om Śānti Śānti Śāntiḥ |

Through the chanting and reflection on the Gītā we were invited to seek enjoyment in the journey itself and to see problems as opportunities. Easier said than done! I’ve been reflecting quite a lot recently on the journey, as my own teacher encourages me to appreciate how far I’ve come, to feel wonder at where I’m going, and to be grateful for where I am now. This class with all its deliberate button-pushing left me feeling peculiarly tranquil and equanimous. I think it was the beautiful spirit behind the teaching more than my little yogic powers. I am a little overwhelmed at the awesomeness of my teachers right now supporting me in my own muddled practice. In my endless confusion I make Arjuna look decisive and composed!

2 thoughts on “Laughing plank

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    1. Well, as I said it wasn’t quite what I thought I’d signed up for…. But it was quite fun — once I’d stopped feeling as though I was going to die during the asana practice, either by falling out of handstand or by sheer plank-induced exhaustion!!! I used to want to avoid such strenuous practices but I see that they offer opportunities for observation. Plus the teacher was very skilled in how she managed the various abilities of the class and it didn’t feel ‘boot camp’ at all.
      And the chanting…. – I was so transported by that that anything seemed possible!

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