In this image, you see a woman comfortably seated in lotus, having coaxed her arms through and past her elbows. She looks content, bordering on bored.
Here’s what it looks like when done by an actual person, who also appears pretty mellow:
A side view:
This week after a long break from my daily Ashtanga practice, I decided to take on the challenge of this pose after years of doing a modified version of it. Basically this, but much sweatier:
I got my right arm threaded through, but only just past the elbow. Getting my left arm through required wetting the skin of my arm and my leg and far more force than I imagine advanced practitioners use. I’m not ashamed to admit that I might have pulled a muscle in my triceps area. While I am able to “do” many of the poses in the primary series, it took YEARS to get to the place where I can objectively say “I can do that one.”
All this patience and all this work got me thinking about how valuable daily persistence in an endeavor is. The Ashtanga tradition requires daily practice except on Saturdays and on full and new moon days. (It also requires that women not practice during the days they are menstruating. I ignore this “rule.”) So in a 30-day month, Ashtanga yogis are on the mat twenty-four, maybe twenty-five days. The primary series takes a solid 90 minutes to complete.
Adopting a routine is the only way, in my opinion, to achieve results. Not just physical accomplishments but the mental training of the practice. Think for a second about the meaningful structure of a routine and the framework that a habit can produce. For me, it is not dissimilar to life off the mat. I have the same basic structure to my home and work and writing.
Those days when I arrive on my mat openhearted to whatever happens are the days that train me to remain openhearted to whatever might happen in “life.”
Those days when my spouse surprises me (i.e., does something outside of the home “routine), when clients express frustration over an issues (i.e., do something outside of the work “routine.”), or when the words get gummed up and viscous (i.e., something outside of the writing “routine.”), I am far better prepared to receive these disturbances having trained my mind to be calm and courageous, having convinced myself that expectations are needless attendees to the events in my life.
A friend recently commented that she was “impressed” that I didn’t get “upset” over something that would have caused her “tremendous anger in the moment” and thereafter “a lot of anxiety and regret.”
Much like the peaceful countenance of the above pictured Ashtanga yogis who took years to achieve something that “looks easy,” years of mental training can also appear to be accomplished without much effort.
Don’t be fooled. Nothing that “looks easy” ever, in fact, begins that way.