“You need to trust yourself,” she said quietly to the girl on the next mat.
This thought came to me prior to my attempt at the crow pose, but hearing her words only solidified it in my psyche. I was trying, what seemed like relentlessly, to support myself atop my elbows, my knees resting my whole body and what seemed like the weight of my entire world, all on two appendages that touched the floor ever so gently.
I tried and tried, shaming myself with each failed attempt. I would plant my feet solidly on the ground, calculating how I would amend the next attempt at the crow pose, trying to abstractly and mathematically calculate what I needed in order to achieve the physical balance required to achieve the pose. This pose, in particular, seemed to be the first that really presented a challenge to me. It required effortless concentration and purposeful balance, both seeming utterly contradictory to my personality.
And that’s how most of yoga seems to be. Once you think about it too much, it becomes impossible to do, yet the entire practice focuses on inner contentment and a stern commitment to your body. So how does one focus on something they are trying so hard to achieve, while simultaneously relinquishing control and allowing presence and balance to flow within?
Regardless of my success or lack thereof with the crow pose, I didn’t realize until I sat inside my car, driving up to my friend’s, what my real problem was. Cars passed me quickly on the highway, while the sound of Sara Bareilles’ “City” rung in my ears; tears flowed over and around the peaks and valleys of my face, down into the corners of my mouth. I came to the conclusions that I didn’t trust myself, and if I never learned to trust myself, that I could trust no one. While this sounds like a dismal revelation, I believe that someday, in retrospect, I will be grateful that I have come to this understanding.
Trust is difficult. While we’d like to say that it comes solely from within, it is not quite as simple as that. It’s impossible to say from where our sense of trust, self-love, or self-worth truly come, as it is not a linear process; rather, this consequential building of ourselves and of our love for ourselves is a reciprocal process. It requires a connection with the world around us as well as with ourselves in order for development to take place. It occurs through experiences coupled with introspective moments, neither of which seem to originate from the other; rather, they work together on a level playing field, helping to form the current versions of ourselves.
Think back to when you were young: If it was not for your mother, father, or some other role model’s love for you, it most likely would have been difficult for you to develop a sense of self-worth, self-confidence, or self-love. In a way, this is yet another example of how we truly need and crave the love of those around us; this is how we cannot survive without it. Without that initial unconditional love from a paternal figure, it is next to impossible to develop a sense of self-worth and self-love. In a way, we need to know that someone else out there is capable of loving us in order to love ourselves. But this is not to say that, as adults, we cannot learn this without others, but I think it is important in order to understand where self-love and self-worth come from and how we can continue to develop it. It cannot come solely from within; it has to come from taking chances, too. And that’s what we do when we’re young, we subconsciously trust and understand that our parents or guardians or role-models love us, and on that uncertain foundation, we build our sense of selves–without thought and without analysis.
So I stopped analyzing, during my yoga session, after several failed attempts at the crow pose. Essentially, I decided that I would just let go, and try what felt right. Well, what happened? I leaned forward, ready to embrace the crow pose, and fell flat on my face–again. My lips pressed into the mat below me and I felt a sense of failure. Well, there I go, I tried to let go and that didn’t work either.
But luckily, for me, the instructor noticed and said, “Good, you almost had it. Try again.”
And I realized, I did almost have it. I think I will try again.
And then I did, and the same series of events repeated itself. I leaned forward, falling directly on my face. #&$%
Well, it can’t get any worse, I thought to myself. Might as well just keep trying it.
And so I did. I pushed forward, hardly thinking about what I was doing. My elbows were tight, my thighs even tighter, until I realized that for what seemed like only 2 seconds I had achieved the crow pose, that my body was allowing itself to sit atop those two appendages that had failed me so miserably before. But what’s funny is that, as soon as I began to think about how difficult it was–as soon as I realized that I had achieved it–my body crumbled back to the ground.
I’m not sure when, exactly, I lost this trust in myself, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I think all that matters is that I get it back, that I learn to trust my choices and decisions, and that I recognize that I truly can only depend on myself to achieve balance. While the yoga instructor’s words were a nice reassurance, it really didn’t matter if she said anything. Her words were not going to help me achieve the crow pose any more than my analysis of my pose was going to; only my commitment to trusting myself and helping myself achieve balance were going to do that.