The journey into strength has always been a spiritual one for me. How strong do you need to be? Strong enough to believe in yourself against all odds and to stay the course no matter how long it takes. You need to be as strong as your dreams are big and beautiful.
Whenever I thought I could not possibly be any stronger I would come to Mysore and my teachers would tell me that I had to be stronger. They pushed me beyond any notions of complacency or self-satisfaction that I might have had. They were tough on me in the exact way that I needed, and I am stronger for it now. If you can press up into a handstand — don’t stop there, get stronger, see if you can go up and down a few times to test both your balance and strength.
Be humble and let the practice make you stronger every day, in every way. I still remember the first time I felt balanced enough in a handstand to go for a full Lotus. Then after a few more years, I remember the first time I balanced long enough to lower down onto my arms. I am still waiting for the strength to get all the way back up to handstand after lowering down into Urdhva Kukkutasana. Practice, practice, practice and one day it will come!
I love that there are still some things in the practice that test my boundaries and remain mysterious to me. Out of all the handstand variations, Scorpion handstand was one of the first hand balances that I was able to hold. Vrschikasana started to take root in my practice even before the straight handstand. Maybe it was because my teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, caught me one day and held me in the posture for what felt like an eternity. It might be his spirit shining through.
I feel so blessed to have found my teachers Guruji and Sharath at such a young age and to have had the courage and faith to devote myself to Ashtanga Yoga. I knew I found my teachers because my heart opened on my first trip to Mysore beyond anything words can describe. I fell in love with the practice and with the mirror of my best self reflected through my teachers’ gaze.
After spending five weeks in Mysore continuing my studies with my teacher R. Sharath Jois, I finished the Ashtanga Yoga Fourth Series under his guidance. This series of postures challenged my notions of strength, flexibility, endurance, emotional stability and peace of mind. The last posture is called Omkarasana and after nearly 15 years of practice and four series completed, my teacher said "now nearly all asanas you are doing."
You can't finish if you don't start. It's never too late, believe in your dreams and work for them every day no matter how long it takes. Strength comes when you keep going even amidst doubt, frustration, sadness, anger and anything else that comes up. Peace comes when you cherish every breath, every moment, every practice like it's your last. Yoga is not about asana, it's a lifelong journey to the center of yourself.Image credit: Kino's Instagram