"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anaïs Nin
Assuming that this is true and there are risks inherent in opening ourselves up, what are they? Vulnerability, softening, opening, exposure, fear of failure were some that my students brought up this week in classes. One student suggested "You might get plucked!" No one wants to be plucked! And like Marianne Williamson says, it is our light not our darkness that scares us the most. So knowing that some or all of these risks have to be taken on to blossom to our fullest potential, then we need to explore what would make it safe for us to take these risks. Courage, strength, and faith were the most predominant answers. In my life the thing that gives me the most support, that helps me to tap into courage and strength, is my family and community.
Years ago a friend shared with me the story of her wedding. She got married in New Orleans and there is an awesome tradition there of what they call the "second line". Basically, they hire a band to walk behind the bride and groom, and the rest of the wedding guests follow behind waving handkerchiefs, dancing, singing and celebrating, and it becomes a parade. Even bystanders wanting to can join in the celebration. I love the idea of blossoming into a new chapter with your loved ones cheering you on - it’s like all your friends and family "have your back" as you begin your new life. If I ever renew my wedding vows I am totally doing it in New Orleans! Wouldn’t it be great if we could start a “second line” tradition for all our major life events – a new job or career path, graduating high school, college, having a baby, moving? In a way, our yoga practice does this for us.
In yoga your back body represents many things - one of them is your past, all that's behind you. All your ancestors, your experiences, your teachers, friends who’ve come and gone, all the things that have helped to shape you into the person you are. Some of these people are still with us, and some have passed on either out of our lives or out of their earthly bodies, it doesn’t really matter. When we invoke our “second line” by staying connected to our back body through breath and awareness, we are invoking the feelings of strength, courage, faith, ease (plug in any other quality here) that they evoked in us and that in itself helps us to remember that we ourselves are capable and can choose to blossom into life that we desire. When connect to these feelings we open our hearts more readily and blossom more radiantly into the person we aspire to become. We become, as we say in our invocation, niralambaya tejase - radiant and illuminated in who we are, without need of support from anything outside ourselves.
So even if it was your “second line” that helped give you strength or courage or faith to take a risk, acknowledge that YOU were still the one ultimately that took that risk and blossomed. Now take a breath and finish this line “I am blossoming into…..”
Off the mat:
My friend Silvia Mordini offers this contemplation:
Think back to your original intention for starting yoga? How have you seen this intention blossom and evolve, what parts of it are still in today's intention for living and loving your life? It is essential we see where we came from to better appreciate how far we've come. And you have come very far. We keep awakening ourselves to ever more amazing inner radiance each day of our practice.
We are always evolving in the direction of happiness, all that we need to do is not block the flow forward. And when we feel our “second line” behind us, either real or invoked, it helps move us in that direction. So there is no reason to wait to be happy or more loved or more cheerful. BLOSSOM NOW NOT LATER. This isn't a rehearsal for your life. Spring doesn't say, ok let me hold back and I'll do this next year. Nope, Spring goes for it NOW. Just like we must do too.
On the mat:
To help embody these ideas more fully, work into backbends in your practice this week with a strong Shoulder Loop. The actions of Shoulder Loop start in the upper palate (where the hard and soft palate meet) moving it towards the back body, travels down to move the head of the arm bones (what most people refer to as the “shoulder”) back while moving the bottom tips of the shoulder blades forward in a circular loop or motion. When the head moves back and out of the way, we can lead with our hearts. It’s like your “second line” is pushing the bottom tips shoulder blades forward encouraging your heart to lift and blossom open. Do some deep shoulder openers as warm ups, for example practice Bhujangasana (cobra pose) with a strap around the bottom tips of your shoulder blades – have a friend lovingly pull the strap forward while using their feet to press the tops of your shoulders back. Work into deep lunges and thigh stretches and then blossom yourself into Ustrasana (camel), Dhanurasana (bow), Camatkarasana (which we commonly call wild thing, but a more poetic, flowery translation reads “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart.”), towards full Eka Pada Rajakapotasana.
Open To Grace: Stand courageously and take the risk to open yourself. When we take the risk to open, we have the opportunity to experience the incredible beauty of life more fully.
Breathe into your back body and feel everyone who “has your back”.
Muscular Energy: Firm your muscles to embrace your vulnerability.
Tone your muscles to feel strong in your ability to take a risk.
Shoulder Loop: Engage with all who have your back by engaging your shoulder blades onto your back.
Feel the support of all those who came before pressing your SB forward so you can open your heart more easefully.
Press the bottom tips of the shoulder blades forward and flower your heart open courageously
Inner Spiral: Blossom the sit bones open.
Widen your inner thighs and open yourself even in your vulnerable places.
Outer Spiral: Scoop your tailbone and tone your low belly with courage and conviction your capacity to bloom and flourish.
Scoop your tailbone to feel the support of your lower abdominals and all those who support you.
Blossom out of your tight little bud and into the pose and the person you aspire to become.
Like a rose, unfurl the beauty of your heart as you expand into the pose.