Virabhadrasana III, Grounding and Flying

In yoga, the warrior poses are named after the mythical Virabhadra, said to be a fearsome incarnation of the god Shiva. Specifically, an incarnation with a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet; wielding a thousand clubs and wearing a tiger’s skin.  While terrifying, there’s something majestic about it.  Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) involves pushing through a strong standing leg and bringing the upper part of your body and other leg parallel to the floor, hovering between ceiling and floor. There’s no surprise why it’s called “Flying Dragon” and “Superman” pose in other practices.

Consistent with what it symbolizes, this powerful pose creates stability through a strong foundation, but “tight muscles create the light muscles” that truly allow you to lift up and fly. Warrior III is all about the “press and rebound” principle (physics! Newton’s 3rd Law); the more you press into your foot, the more energy will push you upwards.

With an impending transition in my life, I’ve been thinking about Warrior III pose a lot, and how I’ve been pressing into my current life in Vancouver, hoping to gain some knowledge where to fly in the future. Mostly, I have been trying to be present and make peace with being grounded, while lifting toward an unknown destination.  It’s difficult to embody those opposing energies at once.

Mount Cheam. Photo courtesy of Katie Foote.

Mount Cheam. Photo courtesy of Katie Foote.

This stage, full of anxiety and excitement, has always been the hardest for me. In a very similar stage about to leave Auckland last year, I got a tumbleweed tatttoo to remind me of the positive aspects of rootless living. As a nomad, there was consistency in constant change and a routine of living out of my backpack, of meeting people, sharing intense experiences and saying goodbye. But this week, I deleted my travel blog because I do not anticipate living that way again (of course, as soon as I did, I immediately felt an irresistible need to write).

On Frosty Mountain.

On Frosty Mountain.

Even though I have been in Vancouver almost a year, I still lack a rhythm and routine like I did when I was bouncing around the globe. My job is pretty flexible so while I have some regular commitments, the projects I am focusing on and the times I arrive to the office vary.  I “live” in the physics department but am not invited to departmental meetings.  There are no real promotion opportunities, so nothing tangible to work toward.

I have had amazing adventures with interesting people in Vancouver but I still spent Thanksgiving with a random couchsurfer on the Island, while my college friends back home went to a wedding together that I wasn’t invited to. I’ve been amazed and delighted by reuniting with old friends passing through Vancouver, but most of the people I crossed continents to be closer to, I haven’t seen. When I needed someone to watch my hedgehog, my couchsurfing friends from New Zealand offered to come up from Seattle. I have found a family at my MMA gym, but a lot of my other hobbies fluctuate with the weather and suffer from my commitophobia to an ongoing series of classes or regimented weekly habits. I have a hedgehog whose grumpy face I look forward to seeing every day but I don’t know if I will be able to bring her with me the next place I’m going. My neighborhood barista knows how I like my coffee and reminds me every time I see him that I am not allowed to leave without saying goodbye, but when I think about leaving, I do not know who in Vancouver that I would want to bring me to the airport. I have realized lately it might be my fault because I don’t ask for help but I wonder when I am going to stop feeling more connected to fleeting things than what is in front of me.  Maybe it’s a symptom of our modern culture where superficial connections are so readily available but people are so afraid of commitment (myself included!).

The grouchy hedgehog who sometimes smiles.

The grouchy hedgehog who sometimes smiles.

One of my closest friends here left for Calgary this weekend so helping her pack made my upcoming transistion all the more real. When I reflect on my time in Vancouver, it’s been filled with disappointing events from the start but I have thoroughly enjoyed living here. I turned down a three-year dream (Fulbright in South Africa) and moved across the globe to work in a department where the Head refused to introduce me. I lived with a landlord who stole thousands of dollars from me and that is still not resolved. My boyfriend broke up with me the day before my thirtieth birthday and it was random strangers and a friend in Seattle who made it better.  Months later, when I found another guy who made me extremely happy, he vanished into thin air with no warning and a broken phone with a full voice mailbox. Why do I even like it here? What will I miss?

I suppose I’ve been pushing into the stability gained by the mountains and sea, larger-than-life geographical features that put human lives in perspective. The people who have gone out of their way to make my day. The little acts of kindness of my neighbors, sharing their Halloween candy, and sharing graditude. The kindness of a friend, sharing her family, and the kindness of another who came over to cook dinner for me because he knew I was a “ball of stress”.  The receptionist at the physio near my flat who emailed me, called my work and left a stickie note on my apartment door to track me down when someone found my wallet.  All the badass ladies I smash pads with, who ask about my interviews and inspire me with their strength.  My very German co-instructor who still makes me laugh, including his running commentary as he monitors how long I last in flip flops before the Canadian winter defeats me.  Familiar faces in Vancouver that remind me that the city is smaller than it feels; even when that reminder comes from the landlord who owes you money and appears in your yoga class.  The blessing of an unexpected Indian summer almost the whole month of October.

My time in Vancouver has been a gift of new adventures and amazing explorations from a base.  It hasn’t quite provided the community and consistency that I’ve been craving.  Sometimes I feel like I’m striving for something that does not exist but I am going to keep trying to fly.

Autumn Reflections at E.C. Manning

Autumn Reflections at E.C. Manning

“Change came like a summer storm;
No warning, no reprieve,
Just a world so slightly shifted
When at last it made to leave.
And suddenly it seemed
You had to learn yourself anew,
That the sky inside your eyes
Appeared a darker shade of blue.
Like all at once you had forgotten
How you fit inside your skin,
For the storm had grabbed your soul
And shaken everything within.
Until the things you thought you were
Settled like puddles after rain,
In which you felt your own reflection
Would never look like you again” –e.h.

Song of the Moment: Tash Sultana- Tiny Desk Concert

Book of the Moment: Indian Horse- Richard Wagamasse

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