I fully appreciate that yoga places a focus on respecting the limitations of the body, but I feel that the best part of a yoga practice is facing the “impossible.” Whether in a class or alone, the attempt toward something unrealistic transcends the practice from grounded expectation to playful hilarity. We see photos of insane poses everyday on the internet or in books, and sometimes our teachers suddenly give the instruction to do something that just does not make sense, “place your chin on the floor with your arms extended forward and reach your legs to the ceiling…” These are the moments in the room that I live for.
Extending our minds and bodies beyond realistic limitation expands our general understanding, strengthens the relationship between the mind and the body, and breaks the ice in the room.
The majority of any particular practice is usually very familiar. We know the poses, and the challenge is in maintaining alignment and breath for the duration. Some poses are more challenging than others, and we strive each time to be steadier and stronger, but it is the introduction of something inconceivable that shatters the mind’s understanding of existence. We live our lives with a basic understanding of how we move and what makes us fall over, but a far-fetched yoga pose presents us with an example of how we can physically defy logic. Our eyes behold the image of someone doing what we have deemed “impossible,” and our experience of the world grows to encompass a new understanding of limitation—or a lack thereof.
Strengthening the Mind-Body Relationship
So, if seeing is believing, and we now see/believe in a new level of possibility, the only option available to us is to try it. Embrace the adventure! The body should theoretically be able to do what we have seen, but often the result of our first attempt is not success.
That is fantastic because that is when the mind steps into the process. Our physical selves frequently operate separately from our intangible intellect, but when the body cannot sort out its own problem, we open a line of communication that is mostly dormant. Mind and body collaborate to understand the pose: the body moving instinctively and the mind puzzling through suggestions. The “impossible” asana bridges the distance between the mental and the physical, almost functioning as a common enemy, and brings them to appreciate each other as cohorts. This connection between movement and thought seems to be rarely utilized, but the challenge of attempting the impossible offers the perfect opportunity to initiate communication.
Breaking the Ice
In the process of trying and probably failing, we laugh. We laugh! The classroom erupts in giggles and conversation. The home practitioner vocalizes confusion. Yogis always have such serious faces, and this is supposed to be fun! Something within us releases in the effort toward the impossible. There is no expectation of success; therefore, there is no fear of failure, and the result is pure, sublime enjoyment of the moment. We are free to kick and flop, and in the end, though we might impress ourselves with how close to the pose we actually came, the most fulfilling aspect of the attempt is the fun we had.
Often, we cannot imagine the world to be different than we know it to be. Sometimes, we forget that our minds and bodies are team players in creating the whole of who we are.
Frequently, we forget to enjoy as we move through the limited time we have to spend on Earth. Yoga is not about endangering ourselves by reaching past what the body is willing and ready to do, but it is about finding and exploring the edge of possibility. If we are set in our ways, we will never try anything new. If we never explore, we will stop thinking.
If we choose not to play, we will lose our sense of humor. That is why we should always attempt the impossible! The “impossible yoga pose” opens the door to a new perspective on life and a better relationship with ourselves.
Who says it’s impossible?
And even if it is, why shouldn’t we try?