In the journey of yoga when you first experience a pose it’s all about the physical shape and quickly your body tells you how it is working. You feel it. As you revisit a pose over time much more is revealed. Chair pose is like that. It begins with your feet together, knees together and hands on your quads. Then you lower your hips as if you were sitting in a chair. But there is no chair.
Chair pose also has a few other names, Lightning Bolt pose, Awkward pose and Fierce pose. These descriptions move beyond the shape of the pose, though there is a bit of a lightning bolt zigzag to it, and begin to describe the experience. This is one of the poses that I call a tough love pose to wake you up in the present moment and maybe even gift you with sore legs.
Let’s be very clear. Chair pose is not comfortable.
So why are you going to inflict this discomfort on your beautiful, precious body? To practice trust.
Practice trust? Why would anyone need to practice trust? Because life is one exercise of trust after the other.
By the time any of us are old enough to get a driver’s license, we have had a few laps around the block of life. Some friendships have gone haywire, you’ve experienced some grand disappointments, maybe even a broken heart. These experiences begin to guide your actions. Often, new rules are made to make sure you don’t have to feel those not-so-pleasant things EVER AGAIN. Yet, sometimes I’ve gone too far trying to protect myself.
When my children were young I’d look at the parents of teenagers and wonder how they could possibly manage the fear of their child getting on that huge school bus, all by themselves. It was so far from what felt possible for me as I hugged my tiny precious baby and felt my own vulnerability. What if something happened to my child? Maybe I’d just lock us both inside. Forever. To keep us safe.
I tried that once when I felt really scared. After a few days of hibernating like that, I got bored and realized that was not going to work. I took a breath and summoned my courage and decided to trust that we’d make it to the convenience store and back all in one piece. And we did.
In chair pose, first you have to trust your own strength, your body, to hold you up. You summon the confidence that you can lower down, stress your body system, and your quads, and still be safe. Bit by bit you become strong, and build the fierceness to know what matters and cultivate the courage to stay committed to that in your life.
Recently I dropped that tiny baby off at college. There were many bus rides and other experiences along the way where I had to weight my own fear of what might happen with my commitment to raise an independent child. No one tells the story of driving away from dropping your child at college for the first time and feeling so very grateful for the practice of yoga. I will tell you that is the real story of a yoga practice.
Life is one million tiny steps on the highwire of trust. Chair pose and my yoga practice built my trust…in myself, in my son and in our future. With that, I could let him go with a few tears, confidence and joy.
Experiment with chair pose this week to build your capacity to be fierce about trust. See it as the lightning bolt to wake you up to what matters in your life. Embrace the awkwardness to try something out of your comfort zone.
Be with the discomfort and fierce beauty of it all. Enjoy dear ones.