I had a thought today as I laid out my mat at Mysore practice. I arrived, as has come to be habit, at quite possibly the latest time I could to get through the postures I am working on. These days, I find myself focusing on the posture that I sought to nail-with little capability-from the beginning, Bhujapidasana. I remember it seeming like an impossible journey, one that surely would never result in my lifting myself up with my legs locked over my shoulders. These days, I’m trying to fold downward from there, then transition (which hopefully will one day look like this).
I remember the morning I came in and was asked to begin including this in my practice. I was tired. I have been tired. I have been so drained that I didn’t know I had some of the capabilities I have had to have, and maybe it’s a really great thing to see them. As I moved through the beginning of the Ashtanga sequence, I was told that we were going to start adjusting certain aspects of my practice so that I would be relying more on my physical strength (instead of my flexibility).
“Pfffft, what strength?” my brain automatically responded. Granted, this is the same brain that has enabled me to do so many things I didn’t know were possible. This is the same brain that told my arms to lift and move all of my things by myself down two flights of stairs in order to relocate for the third time in eight months. This is the same brain that kept me going and going until, quite suddenly, I was home again. And while there have been many beautiful sources of support in the process, I need to take a moment to recognize that, ultimately, the person who got me to a good place was me. Sometimes-perhaps when you have momentarily forgotten-there are people who show up, like my teacher that morning, who can remind us that we are more than capable, that we can do more than we think…that we are stronger than we think.
So that thought I had this morning setting up my mat, ready to channel some brute force (and flexibility), prepared to work up to this posture and its associated transition. That thought I had, walking in to a room full of people mid-practice. I looked around at everyone who was already there, some contorted into various challenging positions, some taking ujjayi breaths so fierce, it would be impossible for me to forget the two simplest things that sometimes slip my mind: inhale, exhale. I started to wonder if maybe anyone had had to channel that same mightiness that I had automatically doubted in myself (despite the evidence pointing to the contrary). You know, I try to maintain my drishtis (i.e., focal points) when I practice (because privacy is a thing, and yoga is a great way to honor sacred space); still, I took a brief moment to look around and acknowledge that, if anyone in the room was dealing, and they still showed up today prepared to do something that can be miraculously challenging, then maybe I was in the presence of some pretty powerful bravery. I guess it reminded me of this quote I came across from Hemingway:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
While I realize this is stretching the parallel, I think it’s maybe a little bit similar to this recipe. Composed of carrots that should not, based on what has happened to them, still have crunch; that should, due to their past, be hot. Instead, we have a plate of cool vegetables who have been through something and emerged with their integrity intact, offering only snappy, sweet, spicy character. We roast them until they are just slightly tender, then we toss them with honey and my latest favorite ingredient, Mustapha’s Mediterranean Harissa (discovered at a Twin Cities favorite, Saint Paul Cheese Shop). Once they have cooled, we think about life and change and budding happiness and that one time we ate at The Whale Wins and how that is just another little thing that got us to this moment where we shovel perfectly textured, flavorful carrots dipped in tangy yogurt into our mouths and write run-on sentences for whoever is reading our words.
Roasted Carrots with Honey, Harissa, and Yogurt
16 oz carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch thick logs (2-3 inches in length)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp harissa, plus more for serving
plain greek yogurt, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Evenly spread carrot slices on a baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and desired amount of sea salt and pepper. Roast carrots until slightly tender, with good crunch, redistributing halfway through, about 10-15 minutes. Toss with honey and harissa, then chill or let come to room temperature. Serve with desired amount of greek yogurt. Carrots can be refrigerated in an airtight container, and will last up to five days.