• Anjali Rao

Of Chaturanga and Pupas

Butterflies are beautiful. Butterflies are a symbol of resurrection, change, and hope. They have, after all, victoriously emerged from the ugly slothful Pupa. Change is meant to be a good thing, needed for growth; one is always told that one should embrace it with courage and it’s the one truth of life. Change. All true. All platitudes for those who are going through it and are bang in the middle of the crazy, heady, churn and burn that is change. Yoga to me, always has been about the mind. Yes, I want to tone and look and feel good, but the lessons off the mat have been more valuable, and I will carry this within, internalized until the time comes when I can no longer touch my toes.

I have learned a few valuable lessons off the mat about transitions and change. It’s not meant to create a roadmap for any other, but to document my own, while I am in the midst of this. Chaturanga, the four limbed staffed staff pose, has always been my yoga nemesis. One always powers through this pose in a Vinyasa or a flow sequence. It’s the transition pose from plank to cobra. And ironically, a hard one for me to stay in for more than a breath due to surgery. I work on this everyday, and in this journey to that “perfect” Chaturanga have learned about how I deal with change and transition.

Change churns and burns. It’s not pretty. Yes, one breathes through it, but it creates dissonance, all that we have heard to be true, felt to be true, perhaps known to be true, can be no longer perceived as immutable. One questions, one seeks answers, one causes conflict within. Transitions are necessary when the present is no longer useful or tolerable or optimal to oneself, or it is necessary to get to the next level, like my Chaturanga. It is a doing away of the present, and that is not easy and may not be smooth. One falls flat on the face several times before the decisive step forwards can happen. And even if the next step forward does happen, one can go back a few times, again and again. And that’s ok. For in the falling down, one knows that one has to, just has to, get back up. There is no other way but up. One has to embrace the churn and it’s inevitable fallouts. In all the platitudes of the beautiful butterfly, one has to remember the dead pupa. The process of change is not pretty.

Have a plan. Have a plan  to accentuate your strengths, and that can help transform your weaknesses or challenges. Reducing ambiguity, reduces fear of the unknown. The pupa attaches itself to a plant that nourishes it, and can sustain its evolution. In my toughest hours, surrounding myself with those and with elements that replenish rather than diminish has worked for me.

My triceps and core are the spots that I need to work on, and I have the shoulders and the leg strength for that smooth Chaturanga. I know now my left shoulder is stronger, and my right caves in slightly. I now have more insight into the nuances of my body because of this effort and practice. No one else owns or understands this better than me. Not my teacher, not my student, not my fellow practitioner. In this journey of change, off the mat, one does get to know rather intimately the inner recesses of one’s mind if one pays attention to it. If one listens and not evaluates, if one reflects, and not judges oneself harshly. One knows which or who are the triggers, and which or who are the catalysts, what makes one angry or grieve, or gives one joy. Self awareness is a sexy side effect.

The butterfly is beautiful. The butterfly is colorful and bright but the pupa is dead. The pupa made the butterfly. The scars of the pupa are the colors of the butterfly. Change is harsh, raw, hard, devastating, necessary, inevitable, and needed. It may not be good, it may not be bad. It just is. Inevitable.

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