I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

If you’re yoga student – which you probably are or you wouldn’t be reading a blog with an asana in its name – you’ve probably done at least some partner work. For instance, your teacher announces that today we’ll be doing handstand in the middle of the room, with a partner, or assisting your friend in a backbend while she holds your ankles, or something similar. Your hands on somebody else’s person. Or even worse, the new guy in the class now gets to hold your bristly, unshaven legs thirty seconds after you’ve introduced yourselves to each other.

When you’re new to yoga, it can be a little disconcerting to have to put your hands on the backside of a stranger, to say nothing of when it’s your turn to be the recipient of the hands-on-ass. (I mean, have you done downward dog with a partner?)  After you’ve been practicing for a while, I think that this uneasiness lessens, because you come to feel that you are in a supported space that the yoga teacher has created, and you understand the value of working with someone else. They can see things that you can’t see – turn your foot out slightly or tuck your tailbone more – and these gentle words can help you get more opening in a pose. Sometimes you can do stuff that you couldn’t otherwise do. Those are the good times.

But here’s the thing. If you have a pitta dosha (take the quiz! amaze your friends with your knowledge of obscure Ayurvedic terms!) you may start to freak out if your partner goes first and does something in the Way of the Truly Bendy. I mean, let’s say you’re working on something ridiculous like press-up handstand with a partner. And your friend, her eyes light up at the very idea and she just goes for it, and boom! her legs are up and you are just trying to make sure you don’t both fall over. You are her support at that point. And when she comes out of that thing, all glowy and sparkly-eyed, you, relieved that you did not cause her death, realize, holy crap. Now I gotta do that.

And so the brain, ever so subtly begins to say, Well now. I can’t do that. But because you have been trained in a yogic fashion, you immediately continue the thought with …but I’ll do what I can.

This would seem perfectly supportive of yourself, because in theory you are cutting yourself some slack, right? But what I propose to you (actually to myself, but I’m sure you figured that out, especially if you took the quiz and understand the mind of the pitta), is that you are cutting yourself up from the beginning with the first part of the thought.

I am working on how to stop the I can’t do that thinking, while still maintaining the I’ll do what I can part.

Here’s an Irish girl blessing for you today: May we do what we can.