“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry…It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore?”— Ming-Dao Deng
So, Friday night I managed a yoga pose I’ve never been able to do before. That sounds like what the young people today call a “humble brag,” but it really isn’t because there’s nothing self-deprecating about that statement. I am unashamedly proud of it, and I’ve found that there’s as much vulnerability in admitting the simple things you’re proud of as there is in admitting your weaknesses.
The things you’re proud of tend to create tiny pedestals that some people enjoy knocking you off of. That’s okay. I think you have to climb up there anyway and take your licks. That’s part of the game of life.
It happens to have been Half Moon Pose, which has been a particular bugaboo for me since I started yoga four years ago. This is something I am not particularly proud of because I don’t love what it says about my psyche, but any pose that requires me to dive toward the floor and catch myself is, let’s just say, not a pose I’m particularly drawn to.
This is something I am working on off the mat as well.
I’m afraid it also says something significant about me that when I did finally “get” this pose, I was alone, in my kitchen, getting ready to cook dinner. It would have been safer, and should have been easier, to get there in class, but alas, I have a horror of looking foolish and unaccomplished, and also I trust other people to catch me even less than I trust myself.
This is another thing I am also working on off the mat.
It was not a “perfect” Half Moon Pose. For one thing I had to have the support of the wall, by which I mean I had to be close enough to the wall to convince myself that I wouldn’t fall over backwards. I am unclear if this constitutes the actual support of the wall or something more like the moral support of the wall, but either way, it had to be there.
I also had to use a foam block to actually reach the floor with my leading hand because my legs are longer than my arms, which is just the way I’m built and not likely to change unless I have some bones removed, which hardly seems worth it just to get a perfect Half Moon.
Nevertheless, what I managed was my own Half Moon Pose, and that’s okay because we all have to work within the confines of who we are, and it’s very easy to give up on something because you realize you will never be perfect at it. As Gretchen Rubin puts it, “Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
That’s another thing I am working on off the mat, getting out of my own way and doing what I can do, instead of worrying about the things that I can’t.
What I found in actually getting there is that Half Moon Pose was surprisingly easy. As is so often the case when I find anything terribly difficult, from a yoga pose to a crossword puzzle to a weekly column, I was overthinking it. I was tensing muscles I didn’t need to tense and throwing the ones that did need to work out of balance. There’s a saying in yoga, “Don’t work the pose; let the pose work,” which is a reminder to soften into a pose instead of tensing into it.
I find in non-yoga settings a less specific but similar idea holds: “Stop trying so hard to look like you’re trying so hard.” Ultimately, successful people enjoy what they’re doing. Study after study proves it. If you can’t find the joy in it, you won’t be any good at it, and that is a recipe for failure.
I mention all this partly because next Saturday, Knox-Whitley Humane Association, in a partnership with Awake! Yoga (that’s Viv Woolley if you follow the yogi and not the business) and the City of Corbin Parks and Recreation will be offering a program of dog yoga.
I’m not going to go into the full details here. No doubt there will be more official coverage of the event. Gay Nell and I and some special friends will be at the shelter filming an announcement video for Facebook probably around the time that you’re reading this column.
Now, if you’re thinking you can’t get a serious yoga workout in a public dog park in the company of free-ranging shelter dogs, you would certainly be right.
But what you can get is a basic introduction if you’re new to yoga, or a really good light-hearted practice in the park if, like me, you tend to take perfection a little too seriously and to overthink things and to fear looking foolish and to fail to find the joy in trying.
Because here are some things I’m pretty certain of about “Doga”: 1) It will not be serious or perfect; 2) We will all look equally foolish; and 3) It will be extremely joyful and will likely treat some parts of you that you don’t work out as often as you should, like your heart and your laugh and maybe even your courage.
It will do some other great things too, that aren’t really about you. It will raise money for the Knox-Whitley Humane Association to improve the lives of orphaned and abandoned animals, it will give a bunch of those orphaned and abandoned dogs a day in the summer sunshine with human beings, which is what most of them want second most in the world, and it will raise the odds that some of them will find the thing they want most in the world—a home to call their own.
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