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Bird of Paradise and Other Things That Hurt

How one yoga pose made me feel better about life

One of the more annoying things about teaching yoga is that whenever you say something in class, you set yourself up for having to deal with it in life.

If I were to say, “Resist the urge to eat avocados.”

The next day I would be eating avocados out of control because they would have “coincidentally” shown up everywhere, taunting me.

This being the case, I am recently giving second thought to my wordy explanations in class,

“Bird of Paradise is an incredible pose because it shows us that we can rise while in a painful bind.”

“The bind is the tension, the screaming pain, the ‘it’s not fairs,’ the ‘I can’ts.’ It’s all the discomfort we never want. But if we want to be a bird in paradise, we have to figure out how to use that binding, internal torture to help us rise, instead of avoiding or fighting with it.”

These are the words of someone asking for trouble.

Meanwhile people are in pain because it hurts to be bound that tight.

So naturally, the next day my life was a binding storm which came in the form of my partner and I yelling at eachother while my beautiful, angel of a girl yelled at us to stop. Yuck.

Avocados everywhere. Drowning in bind.

After our “disagreement,” I went for a walk. My jibber jabber from class still fresh enough in my mind that I knew I couldn’t get away with my regular wallowing-blaming-avoiding method, which gave me zero legs to stand on under the tsunami of avocados that felt like they were crushing me to death inside.

That’s how binds work, they choke you. When you’re in a bind, you’re consumed by the bind. That’s why I can say, in a yoga class, that it actually IS more beautiful when we muster the effort to stand while bound, because it’s so insanely difficult to do.

It’s like trying to smile while drowning.

You are overwhelmed with pain, yet this pose, this ancient philosophy that claims to know how to open you up, says, ‘Yes, now that you can barely move, your in pain and you hardly have a leg to stand on, and all you can think of is how hard this is and how much this hurts, now I want you to stand up, and point that bound leg toward the sky and breathe deeper while you puff up your chest like some kind of victor.’

And we try because it’s yoga, and physical challenges get more hurrays.

Try this pose emotionally, mentally, the next time you are fixated, ruminating and overwhelmed by some weasel of a storied bind in your mind.

When I am low, hunched over, bound up on one side, there is not much reason to be found anywhere, other than my blind faith, that rising up to stand could ever be a good idea. In fact, the opposite feels much more natural.

And finding that blind faith is like trying to hear for a tiny bird tweeting to me from the back of a Home Depot while millions of angry, sad intercom rants rage over the loud speakers.

I have read that paranoid, fearful, angry thoughts feel more real than loving, true thoughts. They are louder and require little effort on the part of the listener to believe in them.

Whereas thoughts of love and trust ask of us to go soft and still, to calm down, to move away from distraction and the running scripts in our minds, so we can at least hear what the tiny bird might be saying,

‘I know it doesn’t feel like you can rise with this, and there is no reason to think you can, but you can. You can love even with the pain.’

That’s all the bird wants us to know.

I, then, must be the one who makes the hard decision to trust that tiny bird voice amidst the raging, charismatic voices who would instead give me every good storied reason to succumb to the malaise.

It’s easier to succumb. It’s harder to ignore the intercom and bind yourself faithful to that potential miracle in the back corner of your mind.

It’s the slightest inkling that maybe, just maybe, this time I could surge up a bit. Maybe I can balance while holding this, maybe I can feel this much sadness, rejection and painful discomfort without giving up on the thing, on the pose, on the circumstance, on the person that’s causing it.

Maybe I need the pain to find the faith.

And then voila, the next thing you know, the horrible causer of pain, that friggin bind, is what’s holding your leg up in the air and transforming you into this majestic and noble bird.

And it’s the bound leg that reaches for the sky. While the free leg stays grounded, rooting you to the earth.

The leg that hurts, the one that’s restricted, that’s the one that gets to fly.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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