The Coffee Contemplations – Vol. 2 : If You Can, You Must

Image by : Yoshitaka Amano

“If you can, you must…”

I have heard this a couple times in a few yoga classes over the past few weeks in relationship to our group asana practice. If you can lift your leg, you must. If you can come into full urdhva dhanurasana, then you must. If you can release more, you must. If you can engage more, you must. If you can be here, you must.

So – I hear this and think – go for it girl. Guns blazing, I know you can get your hips up so DO it.. just do it. This concept invites these kind of masculine approaches to asana and encourages us all to push ourselves to our limits and see where we can go. This is both beautiful and dangerous. I’ve learned as I’ve brought this idea into my own classes that there has to be a delicate and distinct balance in this kind of encouragement.

I first said it in session on Sunday and it peeked my own ears… made me pause and ask.. hmm is that what I mean? Am I encouraging the right ideas and motives in this class?

As the class progressed, I realized that breathing was getting strained and shallow and everyone was pushing their bodies without honor or thought and I had to pull way back and begin to redefine that idea. Because though I understand the sentiment behind it – about engaging where and when you can and remaining present.. man, it just doesn’t always translate. As I started to think of this off the mat – I’m not ever suggesting if you CAN steal the car (even if it’s totally inappropriate and illegal) then you MUST steal the car.. just as in class I wasn’t meaning if you can stand on your head (even if you can’t breathe and it hurts), you must. It’s not a universal concept, it’s actually very conditional and those conditions need to be clearly defined..

But if you CAN find peace, you must. If you CAN reduce your stress, you must. If you can do these things that encourage bliss, alignment, support, truth, peace, and higher consciousness – you must. If you can push yourself to face challenge with acceptance and calm, you must. The thoughtfulness must proceed the action – whether it’s on or off the mat.

I do love this idea, but it’s taken some serious thought- because you can’t just yell that one out and assume everyone is taking it in with the right considerations.

It’s really all about getting out of your way to find your safest edge and allow yourself to explore that space. It’s rather difficult, but incredibly healing once that definition is made clear.

If you can – you must… If you can explore your edge safely and thoughtfully, you must. If you can consciously bring more awareness into your being, you must. If you can breathe and come into ardho mukha svanasana, you must. Cranking our bodies into postures that take us away from our breath and therefore ourselves is NOT proof we can do these postures… in fact, it’s evidence that we have surpassed our edges, that we have disconnected and truthfully – cannot do these postures. It’s then we learn our edge and take the time to come back to where we CAN be. We can ALWAYS be right where we are – the question is can we allow ourselves to accept where we are and actively and compassionately be there. Some days, a full wheel is NOT in my cards. Though I can typically find the posture, somedays, my edge is a little different so the question is not can I force a wheel, the question is can I be at my edge as it is today?

So if ever hear a teacher call out the can then must statement, be sure to truly consider that sentiment before defining what you CAN do. All action requires wisdom.

If you can, then you absolutely must.





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