Hey, I’m Just The Messenger

She looked at me with barely disguised defensiveness.  “Well, you could always do that! You were a dancer!”  Even though this event happened months ago, I remember it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday.

I will describe the scenario:

I was sitting in Dandasana, a yogic pose where the legs are stretched forward and you sit tall.  What makes this pose so difficult is that it requires flexibility and strength both in the torso and the legs. The torso is tall and lifted but with its natural lumbar curve and with the legs straight and active.

It is difficult and mostly unsatisfying pose, unless you can appreciate the strength and grace of it. Dandasana is a great pose for those who want a stronger core, better posture and an integrated body where all parts learn how to play nicely with each other.

But it is not a pose of ego-gratification. If you do a good Dandasana in class no one is probably going to be admiring your form because it looks deceptively simple. Those admiring looks often go to the people doing splits.

Dandasana is one of the poses I practice regularly. I don’t much care about who admires my practice as I choose those asanas that serve my needs best rather than those that serve my ego.  I need a strong body, good posture and good biomechanics for all the activities I do including sports, exercise and just working with clients at the studio.

I believe that Dandasana is especially important for those of us north of forty years of age, as those phasic muscles on the front of the body tend to exert a stronger pull on our posture and we find our spines rounding over more often.  While Dandasana can be modified with props to make it more palatable, it will still require effort to do and maintain the pose.

Now back to the above story.

I often give Dandasana to my clients as part of their prescriptive program. Usually, I assume that if someone is paying me to help her, she will take my advice with enthusiasm because, after all, I am trying to help her. Now, here was this woman whom I’d know for years almost angry with me because I said that there was no easy way to get what she wanted – she would have to work through the pose to get to the “juice” of it.

To say that because I am a trained dancer that the poses come easily to me is an ignorant thing to say but I recognized that this woman’s comment was most likely a knee-jerk reaction because her self-identity had been threatened somehow. The comment simply made no sense. Besides, Dandasana had been part of her prescriptive practice for years but like so many of her other poses, they’d begun to look weak and tired. I knew something else was going on so I let her comment go.

There are numbers of dancers – and yogis and athletes – over the age of fifty who have trouble moving not because of lack of proper dance training but because of a lack of consistent discipline.I also think that in our later years we can become a bit mentally “cushy” and bypass poses that make us work in favor of those that just make us feel good. There is a high price to pay for such a choice.

Having a human body requires daily attention and care. I practice every day and so the truth of it is that Dandasana comes easier to me than someone else primarily because I practice and they don’t.

That’s the truth. Practice and all is coming, as Pattabhi Jois said. It’s really that simple and that hard.  You can accept it or walk away from it.

But shooting the messenger gets you nowhere.