August 10, 2013

The Tale of Tolasana & the Two Heads. ~ Barb Pickl

I’m tired of being dragged around by that second-head; It had to go and our parting would not be easy.

“Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart. United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature-joy.”

Nischala Joy Devi

I was tall until 1965.

Instructed to align our backsides along the concrete wall in my elementary school classroom, I stood second in line as Christina, the designated class midget, quietly assumed her place at the end. That’s how it always sensibly stacked up, every year.

Then, in third grade, the infallibility of the natural world was rendered on its impermanent head. As we dutifully fell into place, Christina now stood to my left and I was the one at the end of the line.

About the same time, I developed a “second-head.” Seemingly grotesque—I’ve spent the rest of my life keeping it hidden from view.

I didn’t see it coming; not one tiny bit.

Being small had its advantages: be cunning, cower in cupboards or laundry hampers. Being small provided a requisite upper hand: the ability to duck, dodge or dart in a flash.

Easily hidden behind trees lining the path home from school, being puny made it possible to appear instantaneously were a bully to try to inflict their cruel domination over one of my brothers. Larger kids were dumbfounded how someone so tiny could grasp an arrogantly raised fist and blind-side the assailant with one beautifully strong stroke leaving them sprawled on the ground in bruised disbelief and then simply vanish.

They didn’t see it coming either.

Not one little bit.

What I did see and feel were constant “bops” to the head, raging discipline, shattering words of belittlement and moments of pure madness.

My second-head also expanded in proportion to my family’s wealth. The few with whom I shared these secrets met my pleading eyes with an incredulous gaze.

How could I be so insolent?

These things don’t happen in “good” families. Denial was the honorable solution.

So I became even smaller.

She stood in front of the mirror a long time, and finally decided she either looked like a sap or else she looked very beautiful. One or the other.”

~ Carson McCullers

Half a lifetime of obligations has rushed by. My longing to live a life of mindful intent is exactly why I’m here–no more superficial patches to fill the gaping holes of an impoverished spiritual dry rot.

I’m tired of being dragged around by that second-head. It had to go; our parting would not be easy.

Not one speck.

I’ve done my homework, so this time I saw it coming. I just didn’t know when.

Enter yoga studio. My pervasive anxiety tapered a wee bit. Fearful of not “fitting in” along with wearing yoga gear (can’t hide too skinny in that stuff), I began with private lessons. Heartened, I was encouraged to join led classes.

I can nail a “Fierce Warrior”: the asana tailor-made for an ornery Midwesterner. But balancing poses are obviously elusive: wavering like a poorly planted sapling, I’m easily up-rooted by only the slightest puff of air.

Pointing my scrawny middle-aged backside toward the heavens while learning inversions, I felt especially awkward and afraid. “Stay with your breath,” my teacher repeats with gentle persistence, yet I could see my second-head reappearing, harboring all the ghosts from my past.

“…Stay soft in face,” I’m constantly reminded but–at this point–not a chance.

It became more difficult: part practice and part calculated auto-pilot so I could get through savasana and into the ladies room before my monstrous second-head would take charge and cruel refrains reduce me to a beaten, tearful mess.

It’s easier to hide and blend in with a led class. I’m bewildered by how different I was to the woman who first stared vacantly at the floor while admitting, “I’ve got body issues,” with an authoritative Type-A, been around the block tone of voice.

But tolasana with my withered frame?


Not so easy.

“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” ~ Maggie Kuhn

Forgetting the sequence, I hesitated, and suddenly the sense of time itself, came undone. My malas were not forged from concrete and steel, as I had falsely maintained. The charade was over, leaving me raw and exposed.

There it was, staring me down: that enormous second-head. It consumed me.

I couldn’t breathe. I was desperate to flee, but I couldn’t move.

Quietly my teacher appeared. Somehow I’m down on my mat and, sitting beside me, he instructs me to hold tolasana–and I do–for some time as my entire body shakes. He then directs me into padmasna and to count my breath very slowly at least 25 times—or as many as it takes until I am calmly grounded.

Fifty breaths later—or a hundred—I honestly lost tract, I sheepishly opened my eyes, quickly surveyed the room astonished to find no one was staring at me with disdain. Strikingly absent was the mocking, hateful glare of that repulsive second-head.

It was gone.


I don’t remember leaving mysore that morning, yet something within me dramatically changed; I’m still small and fearful but my mat has become a friendly refuge and, little by little, my practice has become more confident and lighter.

Although the burdens it carried continue to profoundly linger, I’m certain I’ll never again be held completely paralysed in its grasp now that I’ve lost that second-head.

For I’ve learned the single, original head I was born with is capable, beautiful and lovingly more than sufficient.

Where is home? Home is where the heart can laugh without shyness. Home is where the heart’s tears can dry at their own pace.”

~ Vernon Baker


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Assistant Ed.: Stephanie Sefton/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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