Last week, I happened upon the blog of Lauren Lipton, a journalist and novelist based in New York. (Blogger’s fate: you waste time reading other people’s blogs.) In her post “a whole lot of nothing,” she mentions, “I can now remain in the plank pose for three and a half torturous minutes.”
During my next home practice, with no ado, I checked the time and launched into plank. I couldn’t see my wristwatch. Argh! I dropped to my knees at a disappointing two (well, almost two) minutes.
The next morning, I vowed to do three minutes. Do or die. Heck, if this non-yogi New York writer can do it, so can I! My attitude was more “boot camp” than yogic, I admit. This time I checked the clock every so often and, with grit and gritted teeth, made it through.
Since then, I’ve included a three-minute plank in my daily practice. I’m self-correcting the whole time: Belly up. Tailbone down. Legs straight. Collarbones wide. Shoulder blades in and down. Back of neck long.
The last 30 seconds? Rather tortuous. But strangely satisfying. And it has grown remarkably easier with repetition (and with the aid of time checks). I plan to continue plank holds till my form is rock solid throughout. Maybe four or five minutes are in the offing.
Why am I doing this? Are such challenges positive or negative? Am I developing my resolve and strength—or just my ego?
Is maintenance enough?
A student I’ll call Annie once told me, “I’m not interested in fancy poses or being perfect. I just want to be healthy and stay healthy for the rest of my life.” She added, with some emphasis, her age. “I’m 52,” she said. “At my age, I just want to maintain. That’s not bad, is it?”
To me, there is a fine balance between ambition and complacency. While it’s counterproductive (and unbecoming) for yogis to be strivers, it’s also misguided to become set in our ways or to settle for less than what’s possible.
To ward off stagnation, we sometimes must inject a challenge into our practice, whether that be sitting in meditation, curbing a fiery temper, or doing a backbend dropover. When we try something new and difficult, we are taking a risk. We might fall. We might fail.
During a challenge, we can’t be lazy. Ideally, we are always so engaged. I know I’m not. I must occasionally shake up the status quo to wake up. This week, anyway, adding a three-minute plank pose to my practice has done just that.
Image: Yoga Journal