May 25, 2013

Just Because It Burns. ~ Sapha Arias

As an avid Pink fan, I have to admit to being obsessed with her “Try” single.

The interesting thing is, the more I listen to it, the more intrigued and empowered I have become by one small sentence in the song. A sentence I believe reflects not only my life, but also my practice in a very clear way.

“Just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You gotta get up and try, try, try.”

I have always been, I am embarrassed to admit, the kind of person who simply gave up. I gave up on ballet because I was “too fat” and felt intimidated by the skinny five-year-olds all around me, I gave up on gymnastics because my coach yelled at me and because, as stated in a previous article, I have always been terrified of being upside down. So, demanding that I do a flip in mid-air or tumble gracefully onto my hands to propel myself back onto my feet was simply, I thought, demanding the impossible. I gave up on learning how to play the guitar because (and yes, you may feel free to laugh) my fingers were in pain, and I am a wimp. In any case, I think you get the idea. I am a quitter.

Well, I was a quitter, until I fell in love with yoga.

I believe that when I started my yoga practice, broken, insecure and riddled with fear of rejection, my entire world (family members and friends) believed I would give this up—just as I gave up on so many other things the moment it became too difficult or too real. And to be totally honest, I think I believed this too. After all, I hadn’t really started yoga in the healthiest of mindsets. Therefore, I was in search of a momentary relief and aid in fulfilling my “perfect body” goals. So, deep down, I felt as though the second this became too challenging or boring, I could always quit and go back to the usual starvation that had for so long dictated how I lived my life.

The interesting thing was, I found no inkling to quit once I started. It was the oddest thing. I remember having moments of frustration at not being able to balance in tree pose for more than half a fraction of a second, and getting annoyed that the lady on my yoga DVD was telling me to quiet my mind and focus on the breathing while also letting go of my ego. However, it never felt as despairingly useless or enormously terrifying as everything else I had attempted to achieve in my short life span.

I remember hating warrior sequence, because there was always a point in the practice where we would hold warrior II for what seemed like an eternity. And yet, just as that point of shaking uncontrollably came over my muscles, one inhale and a clear indication to move into chaturanga dandasana swept in and everything was as it should have been, gentle, fluid, strong and wonderful.

This pattern seemed to continue to show up in my practice. One day it was warrior, the next, chair pose, the next udrva dhanurasana, and yet, in all that time, in all those months when I began to finally connect with who I was, not once did I think to quit.

In fact, the opposite happened, I began practicing only once per week, then three times, and then, when I realized that this practice of mine was changing something inside me, I decided to do some research and upon discovering that most yogis practice every day except for one day of rest (or moon days and lady’s holydays as I discovered in later years) I decided I wanted that as well. So, my practice became a daily dance with the internal self.

Every day brought new challenges, new burns and new “difficulties” and annoyances. Yet every morning I found myself returning to my mat.

I came close to quitting when I had my first emotional release on my mat but when I realized how incredibly liberated I felt once the class was done, I realized this entire journey was not only worth it, but necessary in my life.

So, in spite of my “quitter” nature, a nature by the way that was only a façade, I continued to practice, continued to grow, continued to burn and burn and burn. And what I was truly burning away was not fat, it was not simply a muscle sculpting burn, it was an internal fire that was consuming all negative things inside me with out mercy.

The fire started as nothing more than a spark, and in the years that followed, this spark has become a wild fire inside me, a fire that seeks out despair, fear, loneliness, doubt,  insecurity, trauma, hatred, anger, jealousy, panic and the need to give up and gently transforms them (notice I am stating the fire is not destroying anything in me, but rather transforming things) into something wonderful, something I can learn from, something I can use to heal, to grow, to learn and to glow as bright as any star has ever glowed before.

This fire may seem to burn at the moment it is created, as it allows me to come face to face with all the things that have been lying dormant under the surface for so long, but it is a fire that has allowed me to continue, to carry on, to try and try and try. It is a fire that has brought me face to face with who I am at every moment in my life and that difficult feat alone, has allowed me to grow, to love, to learn, to carry on and never ever give up.

It is a fire that has seeped into every aspect of my life.

As difficulties have arisen, and they have been rising out of every corner of the earth to meet me and as they have attacked me in hopes that I curl up into a little ball like I used to before I knew who I was, they have been changed into helpful little burns that can only help me improve and grow.

I have been given the gift of yoga and the gift of sincere devotion and gratitude that have allowed me to withstand the fires, let them burn, allow them to show me something different and new and allow them to transform and change all that needs to be renewed.

So when I find I am in physical “burn” in a particular asana, I take my time to savor the changes, smile at the fire and the quivers and I let the pose wash over me, filled with fire as it is so that it may change my perspective, change my being as it must so that when the time comes to let this pose go, and move on to the next fire-filled pose, I am able not to simply spring or rush out of the fire, but gently, gracefully, filled with love and awareness can move tenderly to what comes next.

I find that most of us try to rush through the fire, rush through the pain.

In fact, some of us will use this burn as an excuse to simply move on or give up, to quit and seek refuge where there can be none. But think how much more wonder you would be able to see, to experience, if instead of seeking comfort when things get tough (which is our default setting as humans, by the way) we sought growth, we sought change and hope.

What if the next time you are confronted with a personal plight that is so tough, so very difficult that it feels as though everything around you is burning and you may just die; what if instead of giving up, you took time to breathe, to pay attention to what is happening, to be grateful for the pain and the trials, to let it burn in a healing way instead of a devastating one?

What if you allowed the fire to consume only that which no longer helps, aids or supports you? What if you chose to let your inner love and strength guide you through the burn? What if instead of giving up, you became present and tried, tried, tried?

So the next time you find yourself in warrior II for a minute too long, breathe, sink even deeper, and let the practice do what it must to allow you to become free. Let it teach you to persevere, to not quit, to live in that moment, and continue moving when the time is ripe. Let it burn so you can try.


Falling in love with yoga was Sapha Arias‘s destiny from the second she stepped onto her mat for the first time in 2008. From this moment on, Sapha began to study as much as she could about yoga, researching and reading endlessly. In this search for knowledge and growth, she realized her practice was more than just asana; it was a direct route to self-discovery and connectivity to every aspect of her self. It was at this point that Sapha began a deeper journey into the heart of yoga and the ability to open up to grace. Feeling joyous about having found the gift of yoga, Sapha feels deeply called to share this practice, and its many lessons with others, and completes her 200 hrs yoga teacher certification with Lex Gillan at The Yoga Institute of Houston Texas in 2011. Sapha is now a vinyasa yoga teacher at Cherry Blossom Yoga in Spring, Texas, Houston Yoga & Ayurvedic Wellness Center in Cypress, Texas and Lifetima Lake Houston in Humble, Texas. She remains forever the seeker and the student of this practice and wants nothing more than to share the gift of yoga and all its lessons with the world.

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Assistant Ed. Caroline Scherer/Kate Bartolotta

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