Resolutions are good until they day they are not.
I’ve had resolutions like that. Some years I promised myself I’d eat less sugar or eat more vegetables. And of course, I always vow to drink less…. next time.
However, it hasn’t been that way with yoga. For years I’ve been picking a “peak pose” for the year and resolving to practice it either daily or at least several times a week. Some years I succeeded with my pose. Some years I didn’t. But every year I learned something.
You see, just like yoga, there is no “win” with a peak pose. If you set out to win this game, you are going to lose. There is only practice.
I’ve had a year-long love affair with Handstand, Wheel, and Hanumanasana, or the splits. I’ve chosen poses that were insane, like full teardrop or Dhanurasana (I actually got that one). I’ve chosen poses that turned out to be a joke – like last year’s Mandalasana (going around in circles in headstand). It was okay, until I broke my arm and shoulder in February. I took that as a sign that I should probably let Mandalasana go until I healed my arm – which I did. This is what I learned:
You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime,
You might find, you get what you need.
Picking a peak pose is a lot like choosing what you want out of life. You must choose wisely, and that involves a massive dose of self-acceptance.
What do you need in life? What do you need to cultivate? Who do you want to be?
The “to be” list is valuable work. It is arduous, time-consuming contemplation. It might be painful. It is not half as satisfying as checking off items on the “to do” list, but it has more relevance. And it might make you happy.
The most meaningful yoga peak pose I’ve had so far, has been Bhujangasana, Cobra pose. I chose it many years ago at a time when I should have been practicing Handstand or something that involved putting my head up my ass-ana. But I chose Cobra, a seemingly simple level 1 pose that truthfully, I could not do.
And that was the heart of the matter. Being truthful with myself. Truthful with my practice. And honestly, way back then, I had no business chasing after the harder poses because I did not know WTF I was doing on the mat. So I stopped. And then finally, amazingly, my practice grew.
It is time for me again to be truthful. My body is older and in a new place. I broke three bones last year. My knee might be the first part to be replaced (sadly, I was hoping for new “girls”). My work is to find contentment as I age. What’s more, my mind is racing along faster than the speed of light. What I need now is to practice my way to peace.
After a lifetime of scrambling after the most advanced poses, I am once again taking a gap year. My peak pose, after much consideration, is meditation. Lest you think that I don’t know how to meditate, let me say not true. I do know how. But I do not do it as purposefully as I might if it were my “peak,” my resolution and my one true goal.
I have come to value the point of stillness. I want to calm the vrittis, which are the fluctuations of the mind. They keep me awake at night and drive me to the brink of distraction during the day. Stillness is what I crave. I am excited to re-learn how to do less, how to focus and quiet my mind as I continue finding more on the mat, and in life.
How to pick your peak pose
- Choose wisely. This pose is going to be with you 2 or 3 times a day or week. In fact, after a year, it will always be with you in your heart.
- Go big or go small. Choose the pose that will do the most for you at this time.
- Ask a friend. If you cannot decide then ask a friend or your teacher for advice. They may see something in your practice where you are stuck or struggle.
- Don’t necessarily go for success. Success is overrated. Pick a pose you may not achieve the first time you try it, but one that might be a good teacher over the long term.
- Most importantly, have fun. Picking a peak pose is like choosing a dream to come true. It’s not about the having. It’s about the seeking. Enjoy.
Michelle Marchildon is The Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga and Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga. You can find her writing on Elephant Journal, Mantra Yoga and Health Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.