Cow – The Story of a Yoga Pose (#1 TriYoga)
I’ve always thought I could do “cow,” or “table top.” (The yoga name is Bitilasana.)
Today, I learned that I cannot.
I thought I knew and understood how to so this position. In fact, it looks like the simplest yoga pose besides the basic standing pose. I guess I never actually thought about it. It seemed so simple. I “just did it.”
Like many things, most things…everything, it bears thinking about. Like many ‘simple’ things – it is simple, but it is not EASY!
The pose does have different versions, I learned, and differs slightly with which yoga system you are training under. You may argue which one is correct, but as a student, I won’t join you. Different systems, different teachers teach the same thing in different ways. That’s just life. It is a table top type of pose, on your hands and knees. Today, I was told that my knees should be behind my hips, and my hands should still stay under my shoulders, at least in this system. I didn’t know this, nor did I realize I wasn’t doing it correctly.
Now that I am getting some feed back, you would think I, and the room mate in my head, would be happy now. Embarrassingly, I found the pose done this way extremely challenging. As soon as I got in this corrected position, my arms started to tremble and shake.
We work through as many of the variations and props we could throw at it. It took a long time to work out what the problem was. Was it my wrists? I went through several blocks and wedges to find the thing that worked best. When I used blocks under my hands, I couldn’t do it at all. When I used fists that was OK. When I use my flat hand, I couldn’t staying in the pose but a few seconds. Even with my knees under my hips, it was hard. If I used a wedge and turned it with the high side towards me that helped my wrists, but it was not comfortable on my arms. This is the way wedges are usually used. When I turn the wedge around, so the high side was pointed away from me, I found it immediately relief. My wrist hurt a little, but it was acceptable.
Rather it being a wrist problem it’s a problem of upper arm strength. How embarrassing. I’m just freaking weak.
However – I consider this good news! I can work on that! I’ll get over my embarrassment.
What I did learn, other than how to correctly do the pose, is how much shame we carry around with our abilities, and disabilities. It’s amazing. We invest so much in our beliefs about what we can do, our abilities, likes and dislikes, and even our weaknesss and disabilities. Then we double the impact: we tie our views of self and worth to these abilities. I was acting like my worth is tied up in whether I can do cow asana?
Apparently it is.
I’m taking that investment back.
Ability is always a moving target. We start out unable – in everything we try. We develop ability through practice and healthy doses of failure. Eventually, over time, we lose our sharp edge of ability. In the end, we often loose all ability and often even our eternally apparent wisdom. So given the fact all this – all of this – is temporary, I’ve determined to learn from the learning. That is practice. And practice, well that is The Practice.
Yoga is about the process of getting into a pose and out of a pose. It is about the experience. The whole experience. Even more, it is about how that experience informs us about ourselves and our attachments. This whole ‘failure of being able to do cow’ was a beautiful success in those terms.
I’ll take that and run with it!
by Tama Cathers, DVM, MS, BA, KSU-CVM Zoo Wildlife Exotic Animal Intern in another life, Instructor Vicksburg Quest, Elemental Self Defense supporter, Threshold Choir Director, TriYoga & Sangha Teacher Training Student, Potter & Poet, Writer & Wire Wrapper, repeat offender – Appalachian Trail hiker, Gardener, Herbalist, Dog lover, Mother, and sometimes representing aspects of divine loving mother Kali who will cut your head off, all for your own good of course.