I’ve been working on the Crow pose in Yoga class. Crow is one of those Yoga positions like Full Lotus and Tree that, when mastered, seems to convey instant membership in a secret club. For the interested, Full Lotus is the one where you sit cross-legged with the feet stacked on top of the thighs. Tree is the one where you balance on one leg with the opposite foot jammed up in your crotch. And Crow is where you do a scrunched up handstand and try not to break your neck.
My Full Lotus is missing some petals, because the combination of short legs and fat thighs makes it impossible to do better than a three quarters position. And my version is probably banned by the Yoga Governor’s Society (or whoever the hell is in charge of such decisions), because whichever ankle is innermost gets seriously twisted. In fact, I think Full Lotus may be dangerous enough to the knees that the YMCA may actually have warned our teachers off of it, with visions of lawsuits dancing in their corporate heads. This is the only reason I can imagine we’ve never done it in class, even though it’s the one pose everyone imagines when the word “Yoga” is spoken.
The Yoga instructors make a huge deal out of personal safety. They remind us throughout the class not to compete, to go at our own pace, and to stop if anything hurts. Yoga, they say, should feel good. And it does. And I like it. I’m willing to go through a little discomfort if I get my official Yogi card out of it. (Or whatever they’re awarding for membership these days.) But I’m going to have to lose weight to get my own thighs to quit thwarting me before I can have my lotus and fill it, too.
Similarly, my Tree will be a long time bending in the breeze before it is a real Yoga certified creation. There are degrees of tree. In “Open Tree”, you stick your bent-kneed leg out to the side and let your foot point straight down. In a pose I shall dub “Sapling”, you put your foot on the calf or ankle. In Full Tree, the foot comes above the knee. Never on the knee, because you don’t want to blow out your knee. Now, when the YMCA gurus do it, their heels look stuffed so far up into their thighs that they have got to be getting into the pubic bone. When I do it, I have to stay at ankle or calf height at the gym. At home I can get my heel up high enough. Sort of. But it doesn’t feel right, and my toes are always wiggling around near the knee when I’m pretty sure that if my thighs weren’t quite so luscious, I would have inches between toenail and kneecap.
And even when I do get upright with my leg bent, balancing, it’s only so long before I fall over. The Yoga instructors tell us it’s fine to have “windy trees”. We should let ourselves blow in the breeze and just bend with it. Yeah, only, sooner or later, I become a crashing tree. Their point is that rigidity makes it harder to balance, where rooted flexibility is actually quite stable. Yeah. I’ll let you know when and if I get there.
But Crow is a pose I can see myself managing in the not-too-distant future. Like Tree, this is a balancing pose. But this one is lower to the ground, and it relies more on arm stability and abdominal strength, two areas where I have much more to offer than when my thighs get a vote in the activity.
And then fall flat on your face.
Because that’s the thing about Crow. Full Lotus poses a threat to the knees and requires Gumby legs, but there’s never a point of no return. Tree is an invitation to falling over, but if you do, you can always just stick out the up leg and put it down. Crow, though, requires complete trust. To get it, you have to give yourself over to it. And I can do that. I love the slow shift of balance as I lean into my arms, with my shoulders acting as pivots. But as soon as I commit that much weight forward, the only ways down are to shift it back where it started, or to fall forward without any protection.
Pretty much as soon as I achieve the pose, I start to overbalance. My G-cups conspire with my thighs against the abs and arms, and I only stay up for a second or two before I flop forward into the inevitable faceplant.
But, where Full Lotus just makes my inside ankle scream for mercy and Tree makes me feel like I’m standing out on the boulevard fighting the hurricane, I can tell that the problem with Crow has more to do with leaning forward too fast for my abs to counterbalance the legs, and that if I can get my liftoff under control, I’ll be able to manage a longer flight and a more graceful landing. So it’s here that I plan to devote what one instructor calls my “challenge” energy. And if I can get my fat arse up in the air high enough and long enough for Scott to snap a picture, I’ll post that sucker as evidence on the membership exam.