I walked into the studio on Sunday, looked around, and immediately decided I was a total ASSHOLE for thinking I belonged in the room. To begin with, it was clear that most of the people there had been to the three other workshops that were part of Kathryn Budig's Nashville Yoga Crawl and had already bonded, and I was the new girl showing up on the last day for the last class. From my perspective (admittedly cloaked in self-doubt and fear) they were all best friends commiserating about how much their abs hurt after the core workshop the day before, saving spots for each other, warming up by doing gymnast type moves and name-dropping incredibly advanced poses they had been practicing the night before (because you know, after five hours of yoga, they just couldn't get enough and were doing Scorpion in their living/hotel rooms because it's no big deal to balance on your forearms, flip your feet over your body and touch your forehead with your toes.) They probably levitated, drank some wheat-grass and did some yoga nidra afterward. As for me, I was ready to book it out of there and spend the two and a half hours I was supposed to spend perfecting Urdhva Danurasana hiding in a booth at Noshville, one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, order a Reuben, fries and an egg cream, tell them to keep the pickles coming, and call it a day.
See, back-bends don't come easily for me.
Annnnd, that's the understatement of the year.
If yoga is all about balance then it is actually entirely fair, really, given that all things forward-fold are (on most days) a walk in the park for me. I have always been very limber and strong in my hips and hamstrings, so my favorite poses (if favorite means the poses that stroke my ego and make me feel good about myself, which it only does on SOME days, not all days, I promise) include Uttanasana (standing forward bend), Upavistha Konasana (seated wide-angle forward bend), any and every variation of Prasarita Padottanasana (standing wide-angle forward bend), all of the warriors and triangle, Paschimotanasana (seated forward bend) and Baddha Konasana (bound angle), and OF COURSE Adho Mukha Savasana (downward facing dog). I love these poses (and all their many sister and brother poses) mainly because they feel good - really, really GOOD - in my body. They don't challenge me in a way that is uncomfortable, they don't push my limits or edges except in ways that feel safe, they aren't scary and unknown. And, frankly, I can do them WELL. (This is so un-yogic of me, right? But is IS honest. Points for honesty, please?) If it involves folding forward, requires lower-body flexibility and strength, and maintains lift and alignment in my torso (even while upside down - I'm not scared of being upside down!), I'm all in.
If it involves heart-opening and shoulders releasing, anything about "collar bones smiling", requires upper body strength and flexibility, and then culminates in diving backwards into something I can't see, and doing so with total and complete vulnerability and trust... well, I'd rather go to the dentist. And I hate the dentist. (And yes, I'm well aware what all of this suggests about me off the mat, too.) ;)
To be fair, I've learned to love Ustrasana (camel pose) since my teacher training at Kripalu. (Well, okay, maybe I don't LOVE camel pose, but I love that I can do it now without fear.) And hey, I've always loved Dhanurasana (floor bow) - but it doesn't FEEL like a back-bend to me, because I'm looking FORWARD, even if I'm in the same shape as camel. It isn't so much the back extension that gets to me in some of the back-bends, as much as it is that every time I try to kick up into that quad stretch in pigeon (okay, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), or in a lunge (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II), my hamstrings cramp up in the WORST way. (I totally forgot to ask Kathryn why that happens. Is it just me?)
So this is EXACTLY why, when choosing which of the four workshops Kathryn Budig was offering during her three day Yoga Crawl in Nashville to attend, I opted for the back-bend workshop. Not to punish myself, per se, but to give myself the opportunity to learn to love back-bends, or, if nothing else, understand them better so I can teach them with the same integrity and fairness I teach the poses I *do* understand and love on an intimate level. The title of the workshop seduced me, too - she calls it "All is Full of Love" - and it promised (okay, suggested) that deep backbends would enhance my ability to blend strength with surrender allowing me the opportunity to realize that all is, indeed, full of love.
Well, umm, YEAH, Kathryn Budig, yoga goddess extraordinaire, let's do this. There is little I need to cultivate in my life at this exact moment more than the ability to blend strength with surrender. And to have the woman who teaches me via YogaGlo almost daily, who writes amazing organic, whole food, healthy, nutritional powerhouse recipes on MindyBodyGreen, who taught me that my yoga mat was MY safe and sacred space, who does all of this while remaining funny and accessible and REAL, admitting that her physical postures took a TON of work and struggle and did NOT come easily, who I admire and look up to beyond measure... to have KATHRYN BUDIG help me cultivate the ability to blend strength with surrender live and in-person? Yes, yes, yes.
Or maybe no, no, NO, because unfortunately there I was, minutes before the workshop was set to begin, letting my internal dialogue get the best of me, letting my self-doubt threaten my ability to enjoy what I'd been desperately looking forward to. Oh, HI, heart of mine, closing. This would be a great moment for a safe forward-fold, no? =) (Maybe in the Noshville bathroom before my food gets to the table?)
But then Kathryn Budig herself walked into the room, made direct eye contact with me, and smiled as though I were an old friend she'd been waiting to see. Cue a little bit of surrender.
And THEN, after having us lay down on blocks to start slowly opening our chests for the back-bends to come, she walked right over to me, pressed gently on my shoulders and said "Hilary?"
"How did you know?" I said, dumbfounded.
"I recognize you from your picture! How was your drive?" she said.
blog I had written about taking her workshop, and I had responded to one of her tweets about being in Nashville saying I was driving down the next day. I sort of assumed a yoga super-star who has been on the cover of Yoga Journal, graces the pages of the magazine every month in those ToeSox advertisements and has thousands of Twitter followers wouldn't have time to pay much attention to ME.
And yet she recognized me and remembered my name. It isn't about her celebrity, her gorgeous yoga poses, her great classes or her amazing writing. Kathryn Budig is a woman at home in her dharma, offering her peace and love so easily to everyone around her.
I think my collar bones finally smiled, but I'm still not sure that I know what that cue actually means.
So that was the moment. My heart was officially ready to open.
...to be continued...