Many things that we practice on our yoga mat can influence how we choose to live our lives: Be present. Let your breath guide you. Find comfort in discomfort. Honor your body. These intentions and disciplines not only enhance and foster growth of our physical and spiritual practice, they can help us leap over life’s hurdles.
One particular pose that reminds me that yoga is a journey, not a destination, is Eka Pada Koundiyasana II, perhaps more commonly known as hurdler pose. I was first introduced to this pose in a Bootcamp Yoga class, a vigorous vinyasa flow that incorporated many “yogi push-ups” and chuttarungas to increase upper body strength for some pretty cool arm balances. Often times, the class would move into hurdler pose from plank or runner’s lunge, and many students could do so with ease.
In my first few attempts at hurdler, I could barely hold my knee up to my triceps for more than 5 seconds. My abs and arms would shake like crazy, I would become self-conscious and even let thoughts of frustration creep into my mind, “dang noodle arms, why the heck can’t I do this?” Sensing my frustration, the instructor encouraged the class “shaky muscles are good, it means you’re growing.” These simple words completely changed how I felt about the growth and pace of my individual practice. I continued to practice hurdler by simply holding my knee up to my triceps, holding it just a little bit longer each time, until I felt strong and solid enough to move to the next step…lift off!
My first venture to actually elevate both legs off the ground was lacking grace to say the least. I felt like a teeter-totter trying to find the sweet spot of balance; I even face-planted a few times (but have no fear if you’re new at hurdler – your face is only a few inches from the mat!) Keeping in mind that these wobbles were signs of growth, I continued to practice hurdler without any judgment.
After about 8 months of practice, I got it! My hurdler doesn’t exactly look like the yoga model in a magazine, but I can now move into the pose with confidence. I am pleased with my progress yet recognize room for growth, and am currently working on fully extending both legs and holding the pose for more 15-20 seconds.
Hurdler has increased my enthusiasm for trying out new arm balances, like Astavakrasana, or eight-angle pose. Perhaps more importantly, my journey into hurdler pose taught me the value of staying present and celebrating the inches of improvement, which transcends beautifully off my mat.
How has yoga helped you leap over hurdles?
Peace. Love. Namaste.