Leaning Into the Light
My arms are outstretched in front on me; my hips lie back, sinking into my heels; my entire body is shifting from its higher air to the solid ground. I am in child’s pose. It is the beginning of my yoga practice and my mind has already begun to wonder why exactly I showed up for class today. Doubts begin to flood my mind as the practice progresses. The flow gets harder and the noise inside my head becomes louder and louder still. I knew this was going to be hard, and I knew that the sweltering temperatures would heat my body to a steady sweat. Yet I still wanted to get out. I didn’t want to feel the uncomfort of deepening into a stretch. I didn’t want to feel my muscles shake as we held strengthening poses. What I wanted was to see beyond my practice, out of the studio and into the comfort of my own dorm.
As if she could hear the inner musings of my mind, Kara Baruzzini, my yoga teacher du jour, interrupted my spinning thoughts that moment with a story. She told us all how it was possible to drive from New York to California with only the 350 feet of visible road. The light from the car’s headlights being the only guiding force in the journey ahead. “You cannot see beyond this 350 feet, yet you are equipped with everything that you need on your journey. You are prepared” Kara explained.
The analogy could not have rung more true in my mind and body than at that moment: at 8 something in the evening on a Monday night, I was nowhere else but in that car, the 350 feet of my headlights only revealing the candle-lit room, the intense heat, the astounding energy of flowing bodies in the studio. I could no longer see outside onto State Street. Thoughts of my comforting dorm room drifted out of my mind and I became fully present in the practice, despite my initial unrest when I first wiggled my way into child’s pose.
As class progressed, the heat from the room and from within my core pulsed through my body and flushed my cheeks. Kara instructed everyone to come to downward dog once again. We must be nearing the end, I thought. Instead, Kara prompted us all to plank pose. I felt an inner resistance as the words filled the room. I was already tired and sweaty and wanted nothing but to lie down in savasana for the remaining time. In this moment, I was trying to search beyond what I could see. I was seeking what lie on the outskirts of that 350 feet, escaping the present moment of my practice and relinquishing the attention to my breath that I had worked so hard to achieve leading up to that point. No matter how hard I tried, I would not be able to bring light to that darkness until I crossed its terrain. Until then, I was trusting the light.
One minute or so passed. Then two, possibly three. With no clock, I was only able to gage by my own experience, which felt like hours. Still, we held the plank. My arms wobbled uncontrollably. The shaking came in spasms and my core was on fire, exuding entropy into the high vibrations around me in the sound of deep breathing. “Trust that in that 350 feet ahead of you, you will find your way.” And trust I did, for I had no other option. I held that plank despite the burning. I held it even when my mind had had enough. When I put down my knees, I forced them right back up. I could not give up on myself. I could see only what was directly ahead, but I knew then and there that even though I could not physically see no further than the present, I was being supported by the strength of the universe.
And so today, when I feel the anxiety of life bubble up to the top of my chest, I breathe and remember that all i need to focus on is that 350 feet. Beyond that, I am equipped.