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Never Say Never posted 7 May 2018

Never Say Never:

On our recent yoga intensive, Step into your Power, one of the readings was on the subject of Never say Never.

The person who gave the reading is back living in Christchurch having left here when they were 21 on the basis they would never come back to live.

“Never” is an abbreviation of “not ever”.  It means at no time in the past or future, not ever.  It is dramatically emphatic in its meaning.  I see yoga students living from “never” often.  I see yoga students who are new to practice watching the poses of other more experienced students and saying to themselves “I will never be able to do that!”

I see students taking their past experience and making from their past an agreement as to their future.  For instance, they will say of themselves that they have never been able to do crow pose, for example, and then, from that past experience, they will extrapolate to their future and say I will never be able to do crow.

The use of “never” in their inner dialogue or in their conversation with their friends or family about their yoga practice may have an element of hyperbole about it – they may be exaggerating for the purposes of effect.

And yet, the “never” in their dialogue has an energy about it.  There is a closing down of possibility and a denial of potential in “never”.  As the reading exhorted us, never say never.  Sir Winston Churchill said that practice, not strength or intelligence, was the key to unlocking potential.  Taking this sage advice and applying it to the example of crow pose, there are those who saw they are not strong enough to do crow and conclude that they cannot do it and will never be able to do it.

Others say they do not know how – that is they lack the alignment and mechanical intelligence for the pose.  They similarly conclude that they will never do it.  It is a sad state of affairs as crow pose is fun.

What may the answer be?  As Churchill rightly states, practice is the key.  Start by placing your hands at the floor, just wider than shoulder width apart, and tuck your knees up as high on your arms as you can.  That is the start and may be your crow for some time.

Progressively, shift more weight away from your feet to your hands until you can lift one foot from the floor.  Reach your head and chest further forward and set your gaze out in front of you by a foot or two.  Ultimately your two feet will lift from the floor without you even needing to even think of them.  And so it will progress.

It does not happen overnight.  It happens over a period of sustained practice and with an open mind rather than a closed mind of “never”.  The joy in one student’s voice as she called out in the middle of class one day “I’m in crow” was tremendous.  She had been practicing yoga for some years and doing our style of practice at Apollo Power Yoga for perhaps 18 months.  In that time she had experienced difficulty with crow but had been a yes for the endeavour and the result was rewarding.

One way that some students say never is by saying “always”.  Always is simply the opposite of never.  “I always modify my low plank” a student will think to themselves.  Another will substitute or add side plank to that phrase.  Another will say “I always do bridge not wheel”.  The commitment to doing one thing is as limiting as the commitment to never doing another thing.

It can be the same with someone hell-bent on doing the “tricks” of practice.  I feel powerful resistance to thunderbolt with prayer and twist, especially when twisting to my left.  At times I have taken side crow, just to avoid the challenge of thunderbolt with prayer and twist.  I have seen others do just that – take the optional variation rather than do the foundational pose.

In that case, what side crow offers denies you the experience of what thunderbolt with prayer and twist has to offer.  Accordingly, in my own practice I have made a resolve that I will do side crow only when I have been in thunderbolt with prayer and twist long enough to get the juice of that pose.  I get both poses some of the time and deny myself neither.  There is no always and no never.

The beauty of yoga practice is that it works on your entire being such that a consistent practice will allow you avenues of growth in all areas so long as you are not coming from a place of never or always.

Strength may be a barrier to you in a particular pose but by consistently practicing you will build strength from other poses or transitions in the class and this accumulating strength will eventually give you access to the pose(s) where you have been blocked.

The same applies to the poses where mobility is a barrier.  The same applies to the aspects of your practice where your mind is a barrier due to its restlessness.

If you have barriers of never or always in your asana practice, ask yourself where else in your life you limit yourself or predetermine your experience in the same way.  Reframe what is possible by being open to transformation.

Stay with the practice.  Be patient.  If you find yourself demanding overnight cures or sudden transformation or a quick fix be present to that.  Consider what it is that is driving your need for instant gratification and how does that show up in your life.

I have found that the quick pleasures of life – an instant hit of white sugar or the numbness of a television screen, or whatever – do not offer the fulfilment or contentment of the slow-cooked pleasures that come from persistence and hard work.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a source of ancient yogic philosophy, describes practice as that which is adhered to, in all earnestness for a long period of time.  Be patient.  Work steadily.  The outcome will be an emergence of strengths within you: strengths of stability, strengths of mobility and strengths of presence and calmness.

Right now in my own asana I am working on poses and transitions that I once thought were beyond me.  They have emerged because I never said never and kept ajar to door to the possibility of those poses and transitions.  They are possible because the work I have done in the rest of my practice has created the strengths necessary to move into new areas.

Make possibility and the fulfilment of your potential your long-term goal.  Keep your mind and spirit open to new experience and the evolution of your whole being through yoga.  Never say never.  Never consign yourself to the limiting parameters of always as the flip-side of never.  Be up to something bigger.

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