By: Tim Franz, Master Tai Chi Instructor & Yoga Enthusiast
Once upon a time, in ancient China, there lived a Taoist monk at Wudong Mountain. This monk was different from the other monks because he had a withered left leg. He couldn’t do Tai Chi with his brothers, nor could he walk any great distance, but he could meditate with the best of them.
Though he could meditate deeply, he could not sit in a full lotus and this was a constant source of aggravation. No matter how much he meditated on it, he could not relieve himself of this nagging nuisance.
One day, it was in the Year of the Earth Pig, he decided to do something about the nuisance. He went to his favorite cave for meditation, took his seat and looked at his withered leg. He shouted, “today you will obey my will”! He grabbed his leg and forced his ankle to his right thigh, thus breaking his leg in three places. Finally, he was in full lotus! Oh, what joy. He tried to meditate but the pain began to get to him. He could not unfold from the full lotus and no one heard his calls for help. So, there he sat until he died. It is said that his skeleton is still in the cave.
The moral of the story is one must be accepting of one’s limitations.
When I started yoga at age 68, I deluded myself, thinking that yoga was a snap. My head told me I was 16 and so off I went. My first class was with a group of much younger people and mostly woman. I learned fast that I was all of 68 years old.
I hurt so badly after that first class because my ego demanded that I “do it right”! MISTAKE!
Body awareness is essential in all physical activities but, in my opinion, more so for yoga. Teachers would say, “find your edge and hold it there.” What the hell does that mean? So, I ignored the signals my body gave me. It was clear that I overestimated my abilities while letting my ego force me way beyond my limits.
Rather than stopping yoga all together, I took the time to figure out my limitations and accepted I can only do what I can do! No more, no less. Since then, my abilities have improved and now I have new limitations. Time takes time. Yoga is a journey and the postures are just sign posts along the way. Each time I go onto my mat, I find my edge and guess what? It is much different today than two years ago. Someday, I will be able to do Crow!
I try to convince my friends to try yoga, bragging about the benefits. Many say sure, sounds good but only a few ever try. Several of my women friends said they want to but first they want to watch a video and do it at home, so they won’t look stupid when they come. I just grin and say sure, let me know when you are ready.
My advice is simple. Come to your mat as you are! Leave the ego in the car.
Remember the immortal words of Yoda and Dirty Harry.