Letting go of Labels

Every yogi has a “nemesis pose.”  Whether its a pose (or category of poses) that seems impossible or unachievable or it stirs up deep-rooted fears or anxieties.  I have never met a yoga practitioner, yoga teacher, yoga enthusiast, etc...who doesn’t have AT LEAST ONE pose that challenges them in more ways than one.  And in my own experience this “nemesis pose” can change, evolve, rotate, and remain present in one’s yoga journey depending on the practitioner’s ability to acknowledge the challenge and face it or avoid it and run from it.  Do you look at your fears or challenges in the eyes or do you bow down, back away, and say “maybe another time”?

My first “nemesis pose” was bakasana (crow pose)...and really ALL arm balances for that matter.  For so many years I would “try” the posture half-heartedly while silently telling myself “I will never get this; it’s my nemesis!”  I remember even telling my students this as if it was okay to not even give it a try!  Looking back I know I told them that so they knew that I also felt extremely challenged and it is okay to fall or not get the full pose right away.  However, I came to realize about a year ago that the Labeling of poses with this term “nemesis” was the problem itself!  A nemesis is something that a person cannot conquer or achieve, an opponent or rival.  There are overall negative thoughts and energy around this term and therefore attaching this term to a pose, or group of poses, is essentially putting up barriers in front of our growth.  In a way we are giving ourselves permission to never step outside of our comfort zone...to never reach our full potential on or off our mat.

Do you find the need or desire to label things in your life, whether they are positive or negative labels?  Are you attached to those labels at “permanent” or “unchanging” in their nature?  This is the ego at work.  The ego has a need to label things inside and outside of ourselves (internal and external realities) and is extremely resistant to letting those labels go.  As a simple practice, start with your yoga poses (or physical activities that you do) and notice where you have attached labels.  ExamplesI am not flexible so I will never be able to do the splits.  OR I am too old so I will never be able to run a half-marathon.  OR Inversion poses are too Scary.  OR I only practice Iyengar yoga so I cannot/will not practice Ashtanga yoga.  The examples are endless and we are all guilty of it in some form.  This practice of attachment and labeling is just a small aspect of our yoga journey that requires attention and practice on and off the mat.   

At this point in my yoga journey I have let go of my labels in my practice and I feel that anything is possible.  And let me tell you how freeing and exciting that realization was!!  I have conquered bakasana and I love to practice arm balances in all of my own practices.  I am now working on stepping outside of my comfort zone in my inversions by moving away from the comfort of a wall behind me.  Does this scare me?  Definitely!  Is it easy to step outside of what is known and comfortable?  No way!  But this is growth and it is extremely liberating when progress is made!  Babies learn to walk and cruise on furniture but there always comes that day when they take that first step away from the coffee table and start walking on their own two feet. 

So I encourage you to be truthful with yourself in your yoga practice and observe and acknowledge those areas of your practice where you completely shut down (or avoid even trying) because it stirs up fears or it challenges labels that you have created for yourself as barriers for growth.  Find those places where you can take baby steps and try to step outside of your comfort zone.  Find a teacher who can safely support you in this process and then give yourself permission to “let go” and enjoy the journey.

Try this:

Laying on your back with the soles of the feet together and the knees out to the sides (Supta Baddha Konasana), close the eyes and bring your attention to your pelvic bowl.

Inhale your breath down the length of the torso to fill up your pelvic bowl with warm, tangerine orange.

Exhale out through your bum and groins while envisioning those things/thoughts/fears that are holding you back moving down and out of your body.

Repeat 5 times (or more if needed).

With the pelvis filled with orange and the breath a watery fluid-like quality, silently repeat a positive affirmation to yourself such as: “I am strong and healthy” or “I lovingly let go of the fears that no longer serve me and welcome joy and love into my heart” or “I love and accept myself just as I am and I trust in my journey that I am where I should be”....find something positive that resonates within your body, mind, and spirit.

Practice Honestly, Safely, and with Love.