In every yoga class, there’s always a balancing posture, and in every class we wobble in that posture. Some weeks it’s more than others and some postures create more wobble than others, but we try anyway because the wobble is part of the practice, and the more we practice maybe, just maybe, the easier (and less wobbly) it gets.
Once we feel we’ve perfected one balance, we might move onto a harder one or change something about the original one to create more of a challenge. We like to feel like we’re making progress at something, it’s human nature.
I love it when my students try closing their eyes in tree pose because if there’s one thing that’s bound to bring on smiles and laughter in class, as everyone furiously tries to stay composed, it’s that. And I always say to everyone when we practice balancing postures; ‘embrace the wobble’ or ‘make friends with the wobble’ I encourage the smiles, ‘don’t worry if you fall out of position or need to put a foot down’ I say to them, ‘just compose yourself and try again.’
Never has this idea of ‘embracing the wobble’ been more relevant than right now as we all navigate our way through this COVID-19 situation.
Total transparency alert; I’ve seen bowls of jelly that are less wobbly than I’ve been over the last few days. Whether it’s been wobbling about my family’s health, figuring out new ways to share yoga and even the stress that comes with a simple trip to the supermarket.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people out there who are worse off than I am, who are having bigger struggles than mine. The point I’m trying to make is that, we’re all wobbling right now, about lots of different things that are both big and small and all those wobbles are perfectly valid after all, the wobble is there to keep us safe. When we wobble in our tree pose, it’s the body’s way of trying to find steadiness in the balance so that you don’t fall over and it’s no different here where the worries and fears that you might be experiencing at the moment are part of your mind and body keeping you safe.
But just as we do in our yoga practice, what I’d really like to encourage is: not to shy away from that wobble, instead place your awareness on it, notice what you’re feeling and try making friends with it. Observe your thoughts, emotions and any changes in your physical body and allow those feelings to flow through you. I know that perhaps it all sounds a bit fluffy and ‘yoga speak’ and whilst I’m also a huge advocate of curling up under the duvet and hiding away for a few hours, I also know that at some point you have to get out from under that duvet and look those feelings in the eye so that you can not only move through them but then move forward in a positive way.
Just as with our yoga classes, some weeks it’s easier than others, so in the current situation, take just one day at a time.
Today you might practice your best tree pose ever (or make it through a morning of home schooling) completely wobble free and with a smile. Tomorrow it might be different, and you might not be able to lift a foot up off the floor (or deal with that team conference call where everyone interrupts each other), but that’s ok isn’t it? We recognise it, we take a break and we try again. One of my favourite teachers who’s work I often use in my own study and practice is Jack Kornfield. In his book A Path With Heart, there is a chapter which talks about ‘turning straw into gold.’ Essentially the straw – as he describes it – is the difficulty that we encounter in life but he says, it is possible to turn that straw into gold;
In a spiritually informed life, these inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, of deepening wisdom, patience, balance and compassion. Without this perspective, we simply bear our sufferings like an ox under a heavy load.’
He encourages us to apply awareness to the difficulty and then to apply that same awareness to how we respond to the difficulty. It might not be easy to do straight away but things like our yoga practice, meditation and prayer can help us with this and can become like a healing balm for us in difficult times.
‘Our difficulties require our most compassionate attention. Just as lead can be transformed into gold in alchemy, when we place our leaden difficulties, whether of body, heart or mind, in the centre of our practice, they can become lightened for us, illuminated. This task is usually not what we want, but what we have to do. No amount of meditation, yoga, diet and reflection will make all of our problems go away, but we can transform our difficulties into our practice until little by little they guide us on our way.’
What happens when we practice a balancing posture for the first time, we might wobble and we might fall, but it doesn’t stop us from practising it again and trying to do it better next time.
If we apply the same logic to this situation, then perhaps we can find a way to navigate the next few weeks skilfully with both awareness and compassion for ourselves and those around us. Go on, make friends with the wobble, you never know what you might discover.