Giving is a good thing. It has positive connotations, especially with the upcoming holiday season being all about giving, starting with Thanksgiving and lasting through the end of the year. It is good to give of our time, our talents, ourselves. But, when giving comes easy, other challenges can arise. For me, giving is so much in my nature that receiving can actually be difficult, and this ironic concept was brought home in yoga just the other day.
I was in a new class at a place I do not often practice. I thought it would be good for me to just arrive at a place where I knew no one; where I could be anonymous and keep to myself. Within moments, though, a very handsome and happy man opened his mat next to mine, got settled and introduced himself. My plan already thwarted, we chatted for awhile, and the class began.
We were in Triangle Pose, or Trikonasana. To me, Trikonasana is aptly named; it is tricky. It looks easy enough and is definitely a pretty pose. I especially like the way we glide into it. The body faces the side of the room with the legs straddling the mat. Arms reach out at shoulder height in both directions, a standing starfish on the mat. The hips cock in one direction while the torso slides forward in the other before tilting down to where the top of the body is parallel to the mat with the arms still spread but now perpendicular to the floor.
The weird thing, though, is that this pose always feels a little funny, and I know that means something more is going on.
Expand your arms, the instructor said. And, now, expand your chest. Look to the sky and release your heart upward.
All this in the pretty pose of Trikonasana? I did not know it was so much work. I tried to expand the space between my shoulders while leaning sideways and looking up at my hand that reached for the sky. I tried to twist my torso open a bit and then tried to open my heart towards the ceiling.
Create space. Make some room for what this practice has to offer, the instructor continued. There is so much to take in. See what you can receive.
I never knew Trikonasana was work. And I never knew receiving was work. I was conscious of making a strong foundation from the hips down while simultaneously opening from the waist up. One thing I received right then and there was clarity. My mind traveled not so far back to a conversation in which a friend actually said that, as a giver, I have to learn how to receive.
I am often told nice things by the very good people in my life, and by strangers, too. It brings me up short each time, and I am always surprised to hear them. No one on the outside really can tell that some hard times have left their marks on the inside, making the opening to receive such niceties that much smaller.
The class continued the flow as the instructor continued to speak. She spoke of how we are all very lucky, very blessed. She said we were lucky to be in the class that night and to experience all that was on offer. She broadened that thought by saying that life itself has so much to offer, and that we should make some space to take in every blessing. Through the yoga, I felt so open, physically and mentally, that it was easy to receive these words.
At the end of the practice, my neighboring yogi looked over at me.
You are so strong and beautiful, he said.
Surprised, I let myself receive his words, too.