Although I usually love the balance poses, the one phrase I dread hearing Mona say is, ‘We’re going to do Dancer’s Pose’. In Dancer’s pose, we stand on one leg and grab the ankle of the opposite leg with the same-side hand. The other hand – the one on the side with the leg we are standing on – goes above our head, first finger and thumb creating a circle. Once we find our balance and find a fixed point in the room to focus on, we are instructed to lift our ankle, and thus our thigh, while tipping forward from the hips, hand still above our head, until we create a T-shape. The theory is that our leg is the stem of the T and our body is lying perfectly horizontal to form the top of the T.
Let’s just say that while I can describe this accurately, my execution hasn’t garnished me any offers to pose for ‘OmYoga’.
Here is what I found interesting with chair yoga and my dreaded Dancer’s pose. During chair yoga, we do the exact same pose except that we start by facing the back of the chair. We are welcome to hold onto, or to touch the top of the back of the chair at any time.
When I have done this pose without the safety of the chair, I can assure you that the stem of my T has a slight bend and the top of my T resembles a sloped roof. I have no idea if my thigh even comes high enough to be close to horizontal. We are encouraged to reach forward but I’m so concerned that I’ll fall right on my nose that my reach is limited to say the least.
With the chair beneath me, however, I am able to get much closer to the proper execution of the move. OmYoga has still not called me but I bravely lift my thigh high, I courageously lean forward and I envision my extended arm stretched gracefully forward, parallel to the floor. I never touch the chair, nor do I feel a sense of needing to.
While I’m pretty sure I may be being too generous with my image of my Dancer’s pose in Chair Yoga, the reality is when I know I have the security of the support of the chair to provide balance if needed, I feel brave enough to really embrace the pose. Just knowing the chair is there gives me the confidence to stand straighter, to bend more deeply and to reach farther.
Once again, as it is in yoga, so too is it in life.
Supportive people abound in my life. Their existence allows me to practice bravery, knowing that if I need to reach out to find my balance, these people will gently support me until I am confident enough to support myself.
Supports in my life appear in many different forms. My family: Jim, our children and their spouses, often show support not only with their words but also with their presence. We’ve had a long-standing tradition that when any of us is participating in an event, such as a race or performance, the rest of us try our best to be there.
Last weekend, Greg was competing in his first Ultramarathon in Ancaster, ON. When I first heard about it about five months ago, I commented to Jim that I’d love to be there. And so, it came to be that last Saturday we stood at the start/finish of the race and cheered as the racers completed their loops of 10km, 20km and 20km consecutively, in and out of the valley, over roots and along goat paths.
I did not do one single thing to help Greg physically prepare for his race. But I like to imagine that by checking out his long training runs on Strava and talking with him about them, getting up early with him on race morning, cheering as he ran past us, and heading down the trail about a kilometre before the ending to encourage him at the final hill, all provided him with support. We played the part of his chair. He did not need to reach out to us to regain balance in this race, but he knew we were there, solidly waiting, just in case.
I often go about my life knowing I have chair-like support from people who do not even realize they provide it. My friend Betty provides chair-like support for me. I know, without a shadow of a doubt that if I needed to rebalance myself, she would avail herself to be my support. So too would my brothers and sisters, as would my friends. Even if these people have no idea what I may be up to on a day to day basis, I know that if I need them, they are there.
When I reflect on my life I can recognize that there have been many times when I have consciously supported others. I’ve also provided support without realizing it. Many former students have mentioned how much my support meant and I could never think of exactly what it was I had done. But clearly my presence helped them feel more balanced.
I must admit however, that I have missed many opportunities to be ‘the chair’ for others when I could have. Sometimes I could have offered such a simple thing as a word of encouragement, but I was too shy to speak up. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if my words would be welcome. Sometimes I assumed they had all the confidence in the world and did not need my help. Many times, in races I would notice a runner struggling near the end; sometimes I would call out for them to ‘Come on, finish it with me’. Other times I ran past. I wish I had not.
Everyone needs chairs in their lives; supports that allow them to believe in themselves and to get closer to their goals and dreams. As this week unfolds, notice ways that others hold this role for you and notice ways that you can hold it for them.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Where is the chair?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to offer your support to others and to use the support of others to reach your fullest potential.