I think of myself as a yoga student first, and then a teacher. When I don’t practice, I feel like I’ve missed something. If, on a rare day, I have no classes, I feel like I’m on vacation.
I make it a point to go to my teacher twice a week. It’s a big class, with at least thirty of us at various levels of practice. The average age of students must be between 45-50. So I find arranging my limbs into an asana a little easier than the rest of the students.
However, yoga goes beyond your expertise at making shapes with your body. And every once in a while, specially when I’ve drifted away from the here and now, I’m pulled back and propelled towards new insight. Doesn’t happen very much, but frequently enough.
Forward Bends denote our ability to surrender to situations that Life brings forth. The Kurmasana has been on my ambitious pose list for years. As a teacher I believe that with consistent practice, any pose can be conquered. As a student there are poses that I judge. I will never ‘own’ this pose. Will I ever own this pose? It’s too difficult for me. This pose is easy! And so on and so forth.
Yesterday towards the end of the class, the teacher asked us to stretch our legs out in the Paschimottanasana and widen them. Then reach forward and grab the sides of the feet. Bend the elbows to the side and stretch the torso forward. I did. And continued working, thinking ‘Kurmasana’. Finally, my teacher started gently coaxing my torso forward. Deeper. Further. More. Eventually there was no sense of the practitioner as being separate from the practice. My forehead touched the floor. I exhaled. Surrendered. I became the asana.