What is a “yoga story,” and how can it enhance our experience of the postures? Iyengar Yoga teacher Kofi Busia answered that question for me when I interviewed him recently for a Kripalu Perspectives podcast.
Kofi explained that a yoga story is simply our life story combined with awareness. To help me understand how a greater awareness of my life story could benefit me when my quadriceps are burning, shaking, and aching in Warrior pose, for example, he suggested that I imagine myself watching a movie of my life.
“See yourself about to embark on the worst thing that ever happened to you,” he said.
I flashed back to a time when I was as flattened, heartbroken, and terrified as I have ever been. It was the moment when I was about to embark on the path that would lead me out of my 18-year relationship with my now ex-husband, and into the unknown. I felt like an orphan miles from land, furiously splashing in an enormous ocean as I grasped for an ounce of elusive security.
“If you’re really at peace with yourself, and if you’ve truly drunk the nectar of that experience, then you will smile to yourself as you watch yourself embark on that experience,” Kofi explained. “Now go to the end of it and wait for yourself. Give yourself a hug and say, ‘That was not a good thing to go through, but it was worth it, wasn’t it?’”
Kofi believes that there’s contentment to be found in having gone through adversity and come out the other side with greater strength, insight, compassion, and patience. “We’re not happy that we went through it,” he said, “but we see the value in the experience and have gratitude for what we learned.”
So whenever I’m in Warrior pose and it’s hurting, my yoga story can be of use. I can reflect on the adversity that I’ve survived while bringing to bear my current peacefulness around that situation. “Try and see if you can use the relaxed and contented ‘who you are’—thanks to that experience—to help you discover a better way to perform the asana,” Kofi said.
I recently tried just that in my ex-husband’s apartment. I’m actually staying with him at the moment while my belongings are in transit from California and I’m waiting to move into my apartment in Massachusetts. It’s so clear that I’ve survived the trauma of the ending of our marriage. Last night, he went out on a date while I remained at his place without a sliver a jealousy. I never thought I would be able to achieve that level of contentment about the ending of our relationship, but I have.
As I held Warrior pose, I reminded myself that I’ve endured far worse pain than shaking thighs. And, as I began to lose my balance, as I bobbled here and there, I remembered how off balance I felt for so long, and how grateful I am that I’m no longer as off-kilter in my life as I am in this pose. With an eye on my future, I looked straight ahead with concentration, aware of who I am today, and how far I’ve come. I steadied myself, gazing forward with hope.