personal donkey kongs


lisa and andrei doing some awesome acroyoga (i am so excited for the retreat this weekend!!)

has anyone seen the documentary "king of kong"? i watched it instantly the other night and found it completely absorbing and unexpectedly inspiring. it's a documentary about competitive old-school video gamers (think big ms. pac-man arcade games). the plot, basically, is that since the early 80's, the world record for donkey kong (considered the most difficult of all video games) has been held by this horrible, egotistical guy named bobby who makes wing sauce in hollywood, florida. enter brian, a really kind, intelligent and consistently under-achieving family man from seattle who decides to deal with his recent unemployment by trying to beat the world record. he succeeds and the whole gaming world, ruled by bobby, goes a little crazy and it gets underhanded and at times, outrageously unfair but entirely epic. although its about something i am not that interested in, i was captivated by these two men and a little monkey and their scores growing higher and higher because it felt like something much bigger was being told. it's the classic story of an underdog going after what he loves and growing a lot through his challenges along the way of meeting his goal that at one time seemed really unrealistic.

it's helped me to tie together a few different ideas i've been having lately about the process of change and especially how that change relates to me doing a handstand. since becoming an instructor last summer, i have been able to do a lot of previously inaccessible things that involved upper body strength, like a forearm stand and free standing headstands and crow pose and a proper full chatarangua (like a push-up). the one pose that i still really want to do is to kick up into a handstand. i have tried and tried during my training and each night before i go to bed (i have a piece of wall in my bedroom that i call "the wall of inversions") and again with new enthusiasm when i started practicing acroyoga in the fall yet never could do it. i think mostly because i haven't been able to get it, it really represents something important to me--some level of being a yogini. i feel like when i do a handstand, i will really arrive (to where, i am not sure).

so i was waiting for a class to start the other night and in a good mood and decided to give it a try. i put my mat against the wall. luckily, i've sought advice so many times that i know exactly what i should be doing. i set my arms up correctly with my shoulders stacked over my wrists. i dug my finger tips into the mat. i looked up at the crease of the wall in front of me. i bent one knee and extended the other leg behind me, engaging the quadriceps and turning the toes down toward the floor. i was totally prepared to do a half-foot jump and then land with my usual thud. yet right away the movement felt different. there was lift and my hips hovered in the air for a second. i landed gracefully. i tried it again and got a little higher that time. each attempt was a little bit better. i still didn't kick all the way up but suddenly i knew that was coming. it's not quite here yet but it is coming.

these changes are subtle but important. i tell my students all the time that you can't think of making huge changes in your yoga practice, it's too overwhelming and you just end up getting frustrating. instead you just have to keep making 100 teeny tiny little changes every time you show up at the mat and love the process for feeling so unfinished yet full at the same time. you love your frustration and have compassion for yourself and work to build strength and flexibility and focus without expectation. it's really a process. then quietly, like a thief in the night, you will suddenly be able to do headstand or a great chataranga and it will feel oddly natural.

i've seen a lot of things change in my life. i've gone from not liking anything whole wheat to wanting my bread as full of fiber and grain as possible. i've gone from not liking my body at all to liking it quite a bit these days. i've gone from feeling like being single was a failure to really enjoying this time in my life when i can be completely selfish and live exactly the way that i please and date when/who i like.

the really interesting part of all of is that throughout these changes, i've always been surprised that when the reality comes, i am still pretty much the same person. i still have my good days and bad days, just with a new trick in my bag. i know that when my legs finally hit the wall, that i will come down and my world will still be right there waiting for me.

i've also come to accept that as much as i have, i will always want new things. i really reallly really (i'm saying it three times so it will come true) want to start studying art and write a book and have a fulbright project to work in the amazon and have my own yoga podcasts and have a photography show with my pictures from peru and yoga-wise, there are a ton of more complicated arm balances that will keep me captivated and frustrated for the rest of my practicing days. so that's my life. i am in a constant state of working toward a lot of personal donkey kongs and the only bobby i have that is trying to block my success is that negative voice in my head which i am getting better and better at ignoring (or distracting or loving or indulging--whatever the moment calls for). it's a process. it's slow and it's fast and when i am fully immersed in my dreams, nothing less than entertaining.