Happy Yoga Birthday to Me by Cathleen O’Connell

So my yoga birthday is coming up. (Yes, some of us yogi types keep track of such things). This November I’ll have been practicing for 10 years and I’ve been thinking about how to commemorate the anniversary. I love tracking milestones and I love rituals; I believe it is important to acknowledge the sacred moments in our lives that are both small and momentous at the same time. Maybe I’d offer a workshop, maybe I’d write a blog, maybe I’d pick a super hard crazy pretzel pose and devote myself to it for the next year. Yeah, maybe that pretzel pose one….

Recently, while practicing one night, I figured it out – the perfect way to celebrate my yoga birthday.

I hate to use a ten dollar word like epiphany, but it was. It was an epiphany. It came to me in Warrior One, my second least favorite pose, after Utkatasana. I was struggling, as always, running through alignment cues in my head: right hip back, left hip forward, hips can’t square but try and square ribs, relax shoulders, ground pinkie toe side of back foot and lift inner arch, roll left inner thigh back to move the hip forward, relax shoulders AGAIN. (Like I said, this is not a peaceful pose for me.) And then my inner chatter really revved up – “I will NEVER get this pose! After 10 years, I should at least be able to do a freaking Warrior One! Left hip forward, right hip back….. ”

But then the chatter stopped just long enough for this thought to break through: “Hey yogi – the fact that you don’t “get” it – that is EXACTLY THE POINT. There is no “get” for Warrior One, so why don’t you chill out! Um, and while you are at it, relax your shoulders AGAIN.”

Riiiiight. If I “got” it, what would that mean – I’d start working on a shopping list in my head until the pose was over? Of course not. If my goal is to “get” a pose, then my practice will always be one of disappointment (and mean-girl self lectures.) The point is to simply try and see what is gleaned by that simple act. (Spoiler alert: the results usually show up more in the mind than in the hips.) I bet my FIRST yoga teacher in my FIRST yoga class ever told me this too – but it took a few years (ok, 10) for it to really sink in….

As a yoga birthday present to me, I’m giving myself Warrior One. I’m going to think of this pose like a good friend who tells me when I have spinach in my teeth – a treasure in my life keeps me honest and humble and lets me laugh at my own absurdities. In same way that it’s not about the spinach ( it’s about the friend – you know that, right?) it’s also not about the physical poses. It’s about being open, giving it a whirl and observing what happens next. Maybe for you it’s not Warrior One, but I’ll bet there is a pose (or two or three) that you think is your nemesis, but is actually your new best yoga friend.

So on my yoga birthday, I’m going to meet up with my good buddy Warrior One and see what mischief we can get into.

Oh, and maybe write a blog about it.


  1. Deborah Lynch-Roden says:

    I also keep track of my yoga birthday! I started practicing yoga in Sept., 2011. I was going through a tough life transition andI knew that a yoga practice would help me. I try to master poses but it’s not about that…it’s about the process, etc. It is very humbling and it is life changing. Thank you for saying it so well! Deb

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