“Practise with the face of an angel”. Advice recently given to me, and slightly reluctantly received. What is an angel to me? I’m a good student, I try to see how I can follow the words of my teachers. But this? What business do I have seeking to present an angelic face to the world? What right? So I clench my jaw a bit tighter and in doing so turn myself away from this impossible advice.
Then in my Rolfing session today a similar request, but phrased more accessibly for me, earth creature that I am. “Open your face as though you are turning gently towards the warmth of the sun”. Ah! That I can do, or try to do. I understand what this would feel like.
I obey. I am a good student at heart, after all.
But despite this moment of softening to the imaginary sunlight as I lay on the Rolfing table, basking in the praise I was generously awarded for this small effort in letting go, back in yoga class I still found myself grinding my way stony-faced through my Surya Namaskar. Until I suddenly realised here was the same opportunity — here too, of all places, I could soften in the warmth of the imaginary sun.
And with that thought Urdhva Mukha Svanasana suddenly became an expansive gesture upwards. Not because I was exerting every muscle I had to deepen into my backbend. No, all I did was lift my face to the imaginary sun. Collar bones broad, my throat felt open and glorious, hands and feet pressing into the ground to elevate me above it.
I am a humble earth creature. In truth I often feel lowly. But now I have a taste for the light and the warmth that hover just above me, inviting me. And maybe there’s a little of the celestial in me too. Maybe on the inside I already have the face of an angel, just waiting to shine out.