While practicing yoga, the poses themselves are so often the focus of the practice and the target of perfection.
But, really, isn’t it the transitions between āsanas or between moments in life that matter more?
The second that we arrive in what we have idealized in our minds as “the pose” is just a “freeze-frame,” a snapshot of what we perceive as the expression of the āsana we were working towards.
One of yoga’s greatest gifts, it seems to me, is to teach us that, just as in life, the moments of passage between poses is just as important, and maybe more so, than the moments we freeze in photos. For life is not just a series of still frames, but, rather, is composed of moving parts.
And how we dance from one āsana to the next might mirror how we do this off of the mat and into the rest of our lives. Do we stop, flustered, tired, sure that we can’t move gracefully into that next part of the practice?
Or can we breathe and bend and flow without being too attached to the outcome, or to why we are even where we are at this moment?
Although I haven’t attempted the pose in the above photo in many years now, I vividly remember the steps involved in arriving at the expression you see captured here. The artist, Robert Sturman, was working with polaroid film, which he had to keep warm with a water bottle he kept under his arm. We had just a few minutes to get in and out of several photo-worthy positions before he raced back to his studio to carve the gelatinous polaroid film with tiny tools into the art form he became very well-known for.
If we had not spent hours and hours ahead of time working on all of the little steps (learning to balance a handstand split on my partner, Paul DaSilva’s, ankles until he could reach up and catch one of my ankles, and then slowly, ever so slowly, lowering my other leg overhead until he could reach it) we would never have been able to do this for the camera. And, indeed, we did collapse into a puddle of limbs countless times while practicing these steps.
I doubt that I could do this tricky pose any more, at least not without a lot of practice. But, the process of learning to accomplish it will stay with me forever.
And this is the true beauty of yoga. It meets us where we are. And it teaches us that it is the holding on to the idea that things “should” be a certain way that creates those mental grooves of unhappiness.
We live in a world of uncertainty, of possibilities yet to even be conceived.
So, why do we hold ourselves back from the potential of the unknown?
Perhaps, we can explore this — in the transitions.
Erika Burkhalter is a yogi, neurophilosopher, cat-mom, photographer, and lover of travel and nature, spreading her love and amazement for Mother Earth’s glories, one photo, poem or story at a time. (MS Neuropsychology, MA Yoga Studies). Erika is also an editor for Mindfully Speaking.
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Story ©Erika Burkhalter. All rights reserved.