All In

The sun shines down on my outstretched arms as I stand strong in Warrior Two, back leg straight and sideways, front knee bent, thigh muscles steady yet struggling. The sand beneath my yoga mat creates an unpredictable foundation, and forces me to use my abs and core more than usual in the pose. I adjust my right foot behind me and wiggle it deeper into the sand, trying to utilize the softness. I rotate both thigh muscles up and inward toward my hip sockets, and I lift my chest further to the sky. My core wraps tightly around my back and waist, and I find my unwavering conviction within the pose – the perfect balance between letting go and holding on.

I glance across and beyond the tips of my left fingers, and notice a fishing boat with a solitary captain gliding along the center of the water. My mind travels to summer, childhood, and catching lake trout at dawn with my dad – still the best breakfast I’ve ever had.

The instructor tells us to lower our arms and face the lake, and to shift all our weight onto our front leg. With palms pressed together at my chest, I bend my torso over my planted leg and begin to lift my back foot and heel off the mat. Focusing on a rock that is half-buried in the sand in front of me, I keep my balance as I continue lifting and straightening my back leg out behind me, eventually floating my arms out to the sides, like airplane wings.

When we let go, there is a moment of ungrasping, while also holding on for dear life.

As I move from Warrior Two to Warrior Three, also called Flying Warrior pose, I’m all of a sudden reminded of my vulnerability in the balance. Will I fall today? Tip? at least? I never know.

Gripping my toes fiercely into the sand, I try not to crumble. Is my leg straight? Is my back flat or arched? Do I point my back toe or flex my foot? And how long can the shaking muscles in my standing leg actually support me?

My thoughts take over and I recoil, like an individual wave that doesn’t understand its singleness holds no consequence – because it’s actually part of the larger ocean.

I recall scene after scene from my life when I’ve pretended to surrender, while still clinging desperately to a self-fulfilling result. I will leave the stability of Warrior Two, and float gracefully into Warrior Three - as long as I don’t fall in front of the class. I will accept my disintegrated marriage, and follow through with divorce - as long as I don’t have to feel the pain, or take any responsibility. I will offer my heart wholly to a new love – as long as he doesn’t break it.

Being truly vulnerable means finding the perfect balance between letting go and being all in. We are not passive, nor do we manipulate. I loosen the grip of my toes in the sand. I trust, while giving the pose everything I have.

If you want something, try not wanting it. And see how you feel. Probably uncomfortable, maybe even panicked. After all, who will you be if it doesn’t turn out the way you intended? What if you fail? What if you burn? What if underneath the layers of self-sufficiency, independence, and grit, lies something raw and fragile – the part of you that actually needs attention.

Still flying in Warrior Three, I lose sight of my drishte, the sunken rock in the sand that served as my focal point. My eyes dart over to a wave that has just splashed loudly onto some rocks. My abdominals relax, and my arms begin to flap up and down. I lurch forward, just as the instructor tells us to pull our arms back in to our chest, and stand up out of the pose. I bend my standing knee, and lower my lifted leg down to the sand. I close my eyes and distribute my weight evenly between both feet. Safe and steady, I exhale relief, quietly pleased with the timing