One of the first terms any new yogi, myself included, learns is chaturanga, a low push-up pose that is entered from a high push-up. Ideally your body hovers over the ground for a while, held up by arm strength, but for many of us (again myself included) there is a point at which belly (or chest, or forehead, or knees) collapse to the ground with exhaustion. But that’s OK. We’re working on it.
Last weekend I enjoyed unseasonably warm New England winter weather with a pretty vigorous hike. I expected to wake up the next morning with some soreness in my lower body, which I did. I also woke up with quite a bit of soreness in arms. I rolled over and tried to remember how that would have happened. Did I lift something? Did I have to hoist myself over a wall? No, actually. I fell.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but I had fallen directly into chaturanga. After catching my foot on a weed (luckily, in a soft meadow rather than on rocky terrain) I broke my fall with my triceps and deltoids, those same muscles that tend to fail me on the yoga mat after a long day. I basically went from standing to low push-up (and then, in short order, to the ground).
There are a lot of qualities we try to cultivate whose practicality isn’t readily apparent. Faith, hope and love, come to mind. But if I don’t try to strengthen them in myself now, they won’t be there when I need them.
I remember once, after a terrible loss, my mother saying “you know what? I’ve never once thought to myself ‘why me?’ about this whole thing.” She seemed surprised, but I wasn’t at all. If that wasn’t the person she was when things were well, why would she become that person when things went sour? Crisis doesn’t create character, it reveals it.
So I keep strengthening those many muscles that I don’t know when I’ll need. My arms, my heart, my soul, may all have challenges coming their way which I can’t even imagine. I hope to be ready.