Lessons of a Yogini

Lessons of a Yogini

The body is a funny thing. Every day is different. Last year I was able to almost reach the ground: about 2 inches to go. Then all of a sudden I was unable to get low at all. My inner thigh muscles were excruciatingly tight. No warning. Nothing. They just didn’t want to play anymore.

My first reaction was – sadness – not anger. I was sad because “I’ve worked so hard…” etc. I was sad because I have the type of body that snaps back and sometimes can’t do things I suppose a ‘normal’ body can – or what we think a normal body can – it snaps back and I basically have to start pretty close to the beginning again. I was sad because when you get to a certain stage in your practice there’s a kind of flow that allows for that elusive sensation of freedom in the body which can be viscerally experienced and I lost that – at least I thought I had. I still feel it – even when I’m tight and my body seems uncooperative.

As I get older, I’ve realized a few things:

That this is really as far as I can go – physically. There are postures that I will never be able to do “successfully” – whatever that means.

That I know my body so well, that I can feel the small changes in my body which can be very satisfying, and therefore I work very smart these days.

And that what I was chasing in my early years of practice are not important anymore. Oh that doesn’t stop me from working postures to the point of a good sweat or at least feeling satisfied with my efforts. But that pendulum swing back and forth of emotions about what my body looks like in the posture does not equal my efforts doesn’t drive me.

I am grateful for all those years of effort though. The wish to be the best teacher drove me to really get to know postural yoga in a different way. In a way that was about asking the question: When I do postures, what makes it an aspect of YOGA? How am I expressing YOGA in an ‘imperfect’ body? Perseverance, courage and humility are the foundations of practice – am I expressing those? What is the difference between:

perseverance and greediness?

courage and ignorance?

humility and self-consciousness?

With those questions and more inspiration I became very attuned to my body, mind and spirit.

Back to the task of practice: it is more now about practicing and working on things as a matter-of-course rather than trying to get somewhere…fast.

So with the help of a combination of postures in my practice – including some unconventional ones like squatting sideways, with warrior twos and side angle, some seated and lying down hip openers. Now with a few months work I am slowly making my way down again. First time in months I am able to place my chest on the floor.

I am very content with my body and my practice these days. There is a certain amount of calm. That I suppose is what it means to really do YOGA.

Peace!

I’M NOT PERFECT IN MY YOGA PRACTICE . . .

Christine U of Shama-Bhakti Yoga Centre

I used to try to be perfect in my practice. I’d look to others to see what I was doing wrong and try to mimic them…well, that’s ok. When you first begin your practice there is definitely a form of emulation. It can be very instructive…shows you the how and the what.

As I got deeper in my practice, I learned that if I continued to do this, I was not listening to my own body…I have very subtle twists and turns in my body that tells me we are not all created equal. These subtle variations  didn’t allow me to easily fall into a back bend (even after years of sincere practice), for instance, without tweaking my back or shoulder, or not be able to do it at all… It took a concerted development of my inner eye, of body/mind awareness to tell me if I was misaligned or moving unevenly…even then when I have the body consciousness, I have to  recognize my own body’s limits and be all right with that! It was a difficult road; one I still traverse every time I get on my mat… It has changed the way I practice… I no longer want to be perfect. Just Authentic…in my own body, my own organism, and my heart and soul. It has certainly deepened my Yoga practice, on and off the mat, and now there’s a Peaceful feeling of Equanimity which is the flavor of my practice these days… most of the time.  🙂

A lot of people applaud perfection – or what looks like it. It’s easy to look at a person doing a perfect looking posture and admire the person and their ability thinking that’s where the Divine lies. I’m sure this comes from thinking that we need to be perfect (at least look like it) in order to know the Divine; to be able to touch enlightenment or god. In this perfect posture then maybe the person’s perfect and they must be closer to god then any of us imperfect beings?

But this isn’t so. The more work there is, the more unraveling we do. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Everyone wants to be the best horse, but it’s better to be the worst horse than the best horse.” The work is essential, and it’s good to work with sincerity. First for some of us the work is physical, that’s why we do yoga. Together with the work on the mind, psyche, and the emotions, we’ll be finally deep in the heart. Open and honest! In the moment . . . There we will find god!