You know what happens every time I set a goal of learning a really hard (read: impressive) yoga pose? I end up with an injury. And then, wouldn’t you know: I’m frustrated and in pain, and oh, guess what? Still can’t do the (really cool and now inconsequential) yoga pose.
After I the frustration and the pain quiets, I (sometimes) hear wisdom whisper: “It’s not where you are in the pose that matters, it’s who you are once you get there.” And I can practice my poses more gently. And am actually more grateful for what I can do, instead of being frustrated by what I can’t do. And, finally, I can let go of judgment.
Did I make that sound easy? ‘Just listen and let go.’ Don’t be fooled. Letting go of judgment and learning to practice gently is NOT easy.
The physical asanas of yoga lead me one step-at-a-time to honing my best personality traits and confronting my most challenging habits. Sometimes I’m running up the steps (cue Top Gun soundtrack) and sometimes I’m falling down them. Hard.
But in the end, practicing gently is the only way to realize the true goal of the asana. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes: “Perfection in asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless.”
That doesn’t mean you stop trying. In fact, I think it means the opposite. It means you practice hard on the mat because real-life is hard. When your practice is hard on the mat, you can practice being less reactive, less judgmental, less angry, and less stressed off the mat. Your yoga practice becomes a lesson in learning who you are and who you will be. And once you learn that it’s not about the pose — it’s about WHO YOU ARE once you are in the pose—then, it becomes effortless.
The yoga learned on the mat only matters if you take what you learn ‘off the mat.’
It’s not about getting your face to your knees in a forward bend—that is only for the sensation. It’s about learning something on the yoga mat that makes you a better parent, a better co-worker, a better friend, a better neighbor. No one comes to yoga to become more judgmental. That may be the worst form of self-abuse: comparing and judging your body against the person next to you. Only you know what challenges you today. Only you know what is gentle today.
“It’s not where you are in the pose that matters, it’s who you are once you get there that matters.”
The Meditation Challenge this week is for a moving Meditation. It is to be used during your active asana practice. As you are practicing, use this mantra:
Inhale: “I honor”
Exhale: “my effort.”
Inhale: “I practice”
Exhale: “with ease.”
And don’t take your eyes off your own mat. Avoid looking around and making comparisons. Avoid the tendency to show off. Instead, show up. Honor yourself by practicing gently.
Happy Learning (what really matters),