An Unexpected Challenge

It’s been quiet around here, I know. This space of mine has been sadly neglected the past few months. This time of year is always very busy in my working world and as the spring season quickly gives way to summer, everything is either put on hold or tossed aside in order to meet those end of the school year deadlines. During this busy season of mine, I always feel like I am just managing to keep my head above water. It is certainly not a time for acquiring new tasks, setting new goals or accepting new challenges. But this year, in a moment of inspired whimsy, I found myself taking on an unexpected challenge which actually did wonders in helping me maintain some semblance of balance.

This little challenge is not the sort of thing I would typically feel comfortable participating in, but I found myself inspired and on a whim, I jumped right into this outdoor yoga challenge.

It was one of those photo challenge things on instagram. You know, take a photo of yourself doing the daily whatever and shamelessly post it to your feed. My first thought was, who in their right mind would want to see photos of me doing some yoga pose every single day for an entire month? And yet, looking through all those photos of talented yogis radiating their beauty in the great outdoors…well…why not? Two things I love dearly: yoga and the outdoors. A perfect and natural pairing. Not to mention the fact that I have been too long away from my mat and a little yoga might be just the thing to help me keep a grasp on my sanity.

It all started on that ridge. Taking a break, an evening walk, a little time for myself to clear my mind and catch my breath, I sat at my favorite lookout mindlessly perusing the daily photos from my friends and family. My sister, a strong and beautiful yogini, was posting photos for this Outdoor Yogi Challenge. It was day 2, Crow pose. I can do that. I think. I hopped up on the picnic table to give it a try. I am not as strong as I used to be, but somehow I managed to find my balance and hold the pose…on a picnic table, atop a ridge, in the setting sun, overlooking my little town in the middle of the desert. And for just a brief moment, I felt completely grounded and utterly free.

Okay, let’s try it again. Day 3, Peacock Pose. Haha! Not a chance. That pose is so far beyond my capability it wasn’t even worth humoring the thought. So, I let it go. But on my way to work that morning, it suddenly occurred to me that there’s always a way to modify. I mean, in order to get from here to there you gotta start somewhere, right? I made a quick detour, found a bench along a desert trail and did my best to strut my stuff with a beginner’s peacock pose just as the sun began to rise.

That was a perfect moment. I felt alive and energized and it continued from there. A Flying Fish at sunset. Wild Thing in the wind. Day after day I managed to take the time to get outside and strike my pose.

It wasn’t always easy to take the time or strike the pose. Getting out often meant that dinner went uncooked and teaching tasks neglected. Many of the poses were challenging and some were far beyond my grasp. I struggled to adapt, to modify, to capture a single moment of steady strength and balance. But somewhere in the midst of the struggle, I experienced a certain sense of freedom as a flying Locust in the clouds, a Firefly in the storm, a Boat with the wind in its sails.

There were some days, overwhelmed and out of sorts, I nearly gave up on the whole thing. I don’t have time for this! Nor do I have the strength, the flexibility, the patience or balance...But then I’d find myself upside down, looking at things from an entirely different point of view. I had to try new things and push myself beyond the limits of my comfort zone. I had to learn to accept an assist, to look for support and trust that it would hold.

I fell down. A lot. Sometimes that was the best part. Just when I’d find myself taking things far too seriously, struggling to stay upright, tense with frustration at my imperfections…I would tip right over, fall off a rock, roll off a log (I even managed to stumble on the dogs!). It helped me keep things in perspective, to laugh, to be playful when things got tough.

It crept into our outdoor adventures, but that’s no surprise. I found myself pausing to take off my shoes, grab my toes and strike a pose in the middle of a red lava sand dune. I found playful strength in a Warrior on the rocks and rugged sort of grace in a Dancer sporting hiking boots near a barbed wire fence.

It was fun and I must say, I am proud of myself for not letting it go. Day after day of this seemingly silly challenge, I continued to learn something new about myself and how I choose to live my life. I learned that sometimes the greatest strength lies in the ability to accept assistance and seek support. I discovered that the key to balance is often found in the most unstable of moments. I realized that freedom comes in simply letting go. I learned that true flexibility is being able to stretch the limits of your mindset. I was reminded that being perfect is to understand and embrace your imperfections. I found that falling down can be so much fun and tipping over the greatest source of laughter. I learned that you can never be brave if you have no fear.

I am so grateful for the whim and inspiration that impelled me to challenge myself in this way, at this time. I was able to experience utter peace atop a vast desert dune and pure humility beneath a galactic sky. And I discovered that I, like you, am a courageous warrior…of the humblest sort.

Find your courage, open yourself to an unexpected challenge. Go on now…I dare you. ;)


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