“Take the wall support, na?” My power yoga instructor, Mona Lisa, says this phrase at least 30 times in a 1.5-hour class. Not just to me, but to everyone. Some moves in power yoga, especially the sumo squats, are quite difficult to do without leaning against the wall. Mona does not want us to strain our knees or backs to get fit. That kind of defeats the purpose, na? When I first started taking power yoga, I thought I had accidentally signed up for Biggest Loser yoga. Mona seems so sweet, but then she makes me do 3 reps of 20 sit-ups on each side and says, “just one more set,“ and I believe her. And, then, she adds another set to that one more set. She is just mean that way. But, in the less than two months since I started taking the class, I have lost a couple kilos (a few pounds), and it is really starting to show. A couple weeks ago, Mona announced she would start teaching a traditional yoga class a couple times a week.
I took my first class today. When I think of yoga in India, this image is the one in my head. The Pray in “Eat, Pray, Love.” Sun salutations (cobra, dog, lunge) and breathing exercises where your whole head vibrates as you say, “Om.” Yet, Mona still says, “Take the wall support, na?” Why? Because this yoga practice requires balance. Balance and flexibility that I (and a couple other women) don’t have. Much like in life, balance and flexibility are my biggest challenges in yoga, and they probably always will be.
When I first started practicing yoga, it was in a beginner’s class at Tomball Community College. When it came time to assume tree pose (one leg on the ground while the other is bent touching just above the knee), I always fell. Spectacularly. No one else did. That teacher did not say, “Take the wall support, na?” After the semester ended, I started practicing at home to recorded episodes of Yoga For Life. The advantage to practicing at home was that if I fell during tree pose, it was no big deal. My carpet was well-padded. I would not break anything. Even now, I can’t pull my leg (especially my left one) up that high. It just won’t go. It is a limitation that I have learned to live with. But, today, Mona showed me how to use a chair to modify the pose to suit my flexibility.
Flexibility takes time to develop. Over the years, my yoga practice has helped me gain flexibility and strength in a limb that I had written off as pretty useless. Little by little, inch by inch, I have made huge strides toward being able to assume tree pose without falling. I have gained so much strength that two years ago I walked 39 miles in two days to raise money for charity. If you had told my childhood orthopedist that I would walk a marathon and a half at the age of 40, he would have laughed in your face. Today, I learned that sometimes I just need to ask for help. Sometimes, I just can’t do it by myself; sometimes, I need to take the wall support, na?