I read an article in elephant journal today that is making the rounds on all my yoga Facebook groups. The writer, Theresa Pauline, says “If I had a nickel for every time I saw a posted photo of a yoga teacher in handstand, I’d be a millionaire.” This sentiment is something that I have experienced myself. I have seen countless photos of teachers and yoga practitioners who are able to contort their bodies into spectacular poses. On one hand, I feel it’s not my place to judge. Every body is different. Perhaps that teacher studied gymnastics as a child or is naturally flexible. Perhaps they have practiced that pose daily for years. Who knows. On the other hand, I have gotten intimidated and shied away from practicing with certain teachers because of the photos I have seen of them. Hello Raghunath! I was so afraid to take his class, Flight School, for years. Sure, I heard friends rave about him but I was still nervous since I felt his practice was way more advanced than mine. When I found out he was leading a spiritual pilgrimage to India, I felt I had to take his class. Turns out that while he seemingly is able to do inversions and arm balances blindfolded, he was a “normal” person and a great teacher. I took a class with Kathryn Budig at the 2013 Yoga Journal Conference. I hadn’t realized her class was on advanced yoga poses. One thing I remember her saying was that her life didn’t change when she was able to get her foot around her neck. One of my favorite yoga teachers never posts photos of herself in advanced poses. Another favorite teacher recently posted a photos in advanced poses. I was impressed. I have taken her class many times and she has never introduced these poses in class.
I don’t consider my poses to be “advanced” at all. The photos that I have on my website are rather tame. Downward dogs and tree pose. I’m also aware after having taught yoga, these “tame” poses may be advanced to certain yogis. My definition of an advanced practice has nothing to do with yoga poses, but more about taming the monkey mind. In that aspect, I’m a total newbie.
According to dictionary.com, the word surrender means:
verb (used with object)
1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.
2. to give (oneself) up, as to the police.
3. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion,etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.
4. to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).
5. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.
It’s a word that has been on my mind ever since my trip to India. My teacher, Raghunath, encouraged us to surrender to the Divine. In a conversation I had with him about my dharma, he suggested I pray “My dear Lord from this day on I am Yours. Please engage me in Your service.” Surrender.
I’m a go getter. If I want something, I need to go out and make it happen. I associate surrender with #3: to give up, abandon, or relinquish. However, yesterday, something shifted inside me as I thought of the word. I realized that surrender is a bit more. Yes, it can mean to give up or abandon. But it doesn’t mean giving up your goal. It means giving up the outcome of the goal. You try your best and you surrender to the outcome.
Vic DiCara, an astrologer, and I have been talking about surrender. He shared with me a verse from the Gita: “karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana.” “We can control our effort, Not the results.” I think I’ve got it.
What does surrender mean to you?
I returned from India on Sunday morning. I had a truly amazing time. I’m having a hard time putting down into words all that I experienced. My teacher, Raghunath, said we would feel like it was all a dream when we returned. Many of us feel exactly that way.
I’m digesting my experience, or, at least I think I am. The minute I came back home, it was back to reality. Back to being a mom, doing laundry, kissing and hugging my daughters, preparing lunches and meals, going to soccer games, etc etc. My reality is pretty awesome. I feel so grateful to have hot water, a beautiful home filled with messes and piles of school papers, but most of all, filled with love.
I am very, very lucky.
I’m sure I will write more about my experience in the future. My dream is to write about it for a magazine. But, after years of wishing that wish, I’ve come to release it. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen, great. Right now, my heart is focused on devotion, chanting, praying, serving. Just show me the way.
A few months ago, I wrote how my trip to India had been cancelled. Since then, I found a new trip, booked my tickets and secured my visa. I will be heading to India on September 30th and will be there until October 13th. Om. My. God!!!!
I got together with some friends last night and they asked me if I was excited about my trip. Hmm, hell no. I am scared sh#tless! I’m also sad that the trip is approaching so quickly. What can I say? I really enjoy the anticipation of this trip. I feel deranged in thinking that pretty soon my trip will have already happened. It will be a memory.
I’m crazy, right? I mean seriously! This is a trip of a lifetime. I should be on cloud nine. Except I’m not. I have a big pit in my stomach thinking about what to pack, worried that I won’t pack the right things, worried that I will get the Delhi Belly and all sorts of things.
I’m sure I will have a transformational experience. I’m sure I will have a great time. I know a huge part of my anxiety and nervousness is the feeling that I haven’t done anything to prepare for this trip. Yes, I have my tickets, visa and shots. However, I need to start packing my toiletry bag and what luggage will I bring? I need to find a duffle bag to pack all the goodies I assume I will purchase. I need to figure out what clothes I will wear. Raghunath, oh, yes, I am traveling to India with Raghunath, suggested we just bring a few things and shop while we’re there. I also want to purchase a few oils from Young Living. And some powerful insect repellant spray.
I’m sure once I start doing a few things, I will start feeling better. I hope. Wish me luck!