I’ve been going to yoga for many years. I’m fairly flexible and pretty strong. But the other important thing about yoga is BALANCE. And my balance is terrible. (I know what you’re thinking: “Imbalanced—no surprise.”)
My balance is laughable, horrendous, shockingly bad. I feel strong and mighty at the front of the class except when we do balance postures. Then I skulk over to a WALL so that I can prop myself up. And for years I have never been able to even stand on one leg for more than ten seconds. I used to practice at the bus stop, trying to discretely lift one foot without looking like I was desperate for a restroom. It never helped.
“Find your drishti,” my yoga teacher said. Drishti is the method of gazing at a focal point in yoga practice. I’d look across the room at the beautiful lotus painted on the front wall. I’d laser beam my eyes on that lotus and then—I’d fall over.
Then COVID happened. My favorite yoga studio closed and went totally online. I found a new yoga studio just over a mile from my house. Walking distance! It turned out one of the teachers was someone I had studied with over thirty years ago. Yet another crazy COVID Coincidence.
ANYway, in this class, the teachers always ask what we want. Lower back stretches? Shoulder openers? Hip openers? Balance poses? There was a woman in the class who always asked for, “One-legged balance poses.” Why? Because clearly she had the genes of a flamingo and had no problem doing the most difficult one-legged poses. I secretly cursed her.
I tried to do them, I really did. I’d look across the room and try to find my drishti. I stared intently at the brass mirror on the far wall, the colorful Tibetan prayer flags near the door, the cat clock in the front. But no matter how hard I tried or what I looked at, I couldn’t do Dancer’s Pose or Tree Pose or Eagle Pose.
Then one day the class was extra crowded and I ended up directly in front of a stucco column. It was okay because I could still see the teacher just fine. Ms. Flamingo was in class and of course she requested balance poses. Because of where I was standing, I couldn’t see across the room. I could only stare at the column one foot away.
So I made my drishti a little round pinhole in the stucco. We did Tree Pose first. In the past I always made jokes about my tree being in hurricane force winds which explained why I kept falling over. But this time, as I stared at the spot before me, I felt calm and centered. I held the pose until the teacher released us. It was truly remarkable.
How remarkable? So remarkable that the teacher made a remark. “I’ve never seen you hold a balance pose for more than five seconds,” he said. “How do you explain it?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “The only difference is that my drishti is right in front of me instead of across the room.”
I could stay balanced when I focused on that which was right in front of me.
Don’t you just love how Spirit speaks to us in all kinds of places? It was a lightning bolt realization that if I focus on what is right in front of me, I feel calm, centered and balanced. How many times do we focus on things that are months away, years away or might never even happen?
Focusing solely on the future not only makes us miss what is right in front of us , but it also causes us to be anxious and fearful and then we lose our balance.
This is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 6:25 when he tells the crowds 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
To make his point, he probably focused on the front row and then demonstrated a perfect Tree Pose.
So we have to ask ourselves, “Where is our drishti today? On what are we focusing? Are we seeing what is right in front of us? Are we focusing on the negative or the positive? On hope or on fear? Are we focusing so far in the future that we feel anxious and off-center?”
After reflecting on these questions, then we can ask ourselves, “How the heck did Jesus do Tree Pose in that long robe?”
Photo: Ki McGraw, one of my teachers from the Hatha Yoga Center, in a perfect Tree Pose.