I’m not certain how many times this scene has occurred, but enough that I
can recount it with vivid precision :
I’ve just finished a series of sun salutations, moving inside of my
breath. Inviting it’s pattern to begin and end each movement as if were a
protective shell. I can feel something start to stir in my arms–each
muscle takes on a light, electric feeling. My internal rhythm of
heartbeat base starts to fill my ears and I can feel it accelerate slowly
like a car engine coming to life after being left in the cold. The events
that happened before class start to dwindle in importance and I am able to
recognize my physical body for what it is. I have feet. I have arms. I
have a sore back and tight hamstrings. I am present in this moment and
listen carefully for the instructor’s next cue. She asks the class to
step back into downward facing dog for five breaths. A pose that feels
enough like home that I don’t really have to think about it. My body
simply finds it. And then it happens– with my fingers pressed evenly
onto the earth and energy teetering between my hands and feet in the tug
of war that is the pose, my arms begin to shake–rather violently. This
disruption sends me right back into the spiral of my “thinking mind” and I
begin to judge this experience. Can anyone else see? Why is this
happening? I should be strong enough by now that my muscles shouldn’t
shake doing this pose? How embarrassing! Arrrggghhhhh.
This is the moment that takes me right out of the experience and into the
crescendo of judgments and expectations. It is becomes and issue because
I let it take over. I see it as an imperfection, a stumbling block, a
hinderance and embarrassment. After all, I am practicing for perfection,
I hadn’t even realized that, despite everything I know and teach, I was
creating and feeding into my own illusion. I tell students in every class
that we are not on our mats to perfect, rather to be present to the
experience. Perfection isn’t a great teacher, but presence is.
I had not been taking my own advice, and I was getting away with it. My
teachers couldn’t possible see what was happening in my stream of
consciousness ( although I’m pretty sure my physical body was reflecting
it), so there wasn’t anyone outside to call me out on my own misstep.
That’s what books are for. Good books anyhow. In a lot of ways, they
tackle and direct internal dialogue and perspective. And it just so
happened that I stumbled into one ; Claire Dederer’s book “Poser”. For
all intents and purposes, it found me. In it, Dederer illuminates that,
“Shaking is a sign that you have awoken the prana body. Meaning, you’ve
unleashed energy that was previously dormant. Shaking is a sign of life.
Shaking is a sign of humanity. The energy flowing like crazy through your
nadis, and your subtle body is waking up. Shaking is a sign that you are
not quite perfect-and therefore you are not dead yet. “
This passage stunned me–to the very core. It was if she had crawled into
my brain, searched around for the crossed wires and adjusted. As simple
as that. Maybe my muscles weren’t tired ( they certainly didn’t feel that
way), maybe I was simply waking up dormant prana. Or maybe, my body was
relaying a message that my brain had been refusing– you are imperfect and
alive. You are human, so shake away. Get over it.
I no longer approach downdog that same way. Now, I invite the small
earthquake to rattle away and instead of tightening mentally and
physically, I smile and enjoy the ride. What I thought was a weakness,
was really a celebration. And just in time for the new year.
~Megan Merchant, RYT 200, M.F.A.