Letting Go of the Physical


A few days ago, I was searching through my music, looking for some fun tunes to play for class this week. I came across an old voice memo I recorded four years ago. I logged these thoughts, as they felt important. They seemed to be something significant, something I should both contemplate and remember.

I reflected on a story told to me during my teacher training. The woman who taught our anatomy hours had divulged that her boyfriend (a long-time Ashtanga practitioner) had just reached a point in his life where jumping from crow pose (Bakasana){.inline-media .inline-image .pose-image} to low pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana){.inline-media .inline-image .pose-image} was no longer something he could, or should, perform any longer. I remember clearly thinking That sucks, not realizing that someday I would come to that place as well.

Asanas May Come and Go

So here I was a decade later. I had learned this particular lesson more than once. I had multiple injuries that waxed and waned, my body was always in flux – postures coming and going out of my practice at different times for different reasons. Every day was and is a lesson in body awareness and ego checking.

I was teaching in New York when a new student came. She was a beautiful girl with a stunning practice. She was powerful, fluid, and flexible, all things that in that moment I was not. Watching her move gave me a pang of melancholy mixed with sadness, almost the feeling one would have when seeing an old lover with someone new.

The Ego Rises

I found it was difficult to find joy in her strength, to find happiness in her prowess, and to be pleased by her practice. My ego was rearing its head for sure. I think some of it was just human nature. We so often want what others have, even if it’s not good for us. Whether it’s a shiny new car or an open back, it is at times a challenge to find joy in someone else’s fortune. I remembered the joy I once had while expressing those beautiful postures, but it was time to let go.

I smiled and realized that this was the yoga.

Letting Go of the Physical

Yoga is so much more than a physical practice. Sadly, we here in the West don’t focus on much else. Better breathing, quieting the mind, and serving others take a back seat to the shock and awe of a deep physical practice. It’s unfortunate. For all of us the day will come that the body begins to decline. It is the nature of all things. I have been fortunate that I have not experienced some monumental injury or debilitating sickness that would completely bench me from my physical practice with one fell swoop.

Lately, I have a collection of rotating injuries that impair me just enough to shift my focus and question my motives. In the past two years that I’ve been the most injured, I have done more charitable work than I ever have before. I have changed my practice from being so “mat-centric.” My practice has been more about creating a better life experience for myself and for others, rather than creating a tighter ass.

I still practice every day, just not always on the mat. I feel good about it. Hopefully all the work I do off the mat will help others feel good also, both in their bodies and out in the world.

At the end of the day, who is going to remember my dress size or how straight my handstand was?

Hopefully they will remember the kindness offered, the food shared, the animals rescued, and the good deeds done by that nice yoga teacher with all those tattoos and the big smile.


Vanessa Van Noy

With a personal Yoga practice that spans over 15 years, Vanessa has trained in several styles and lineages, both nationally and internationally. She does not subscribe to any particular school but rather allows her students to show her what they need from their practice, and find their own spiritual path.
Vanessa is a registered Experienced Yoga Alliance Teacher and has been guiding students in the NY/NJ area for over 12 years. She has worked with all types of yogis from children to the elderly, from professional athletes to those with physical impairments, and everyone in between. Her training as a Certified Thai Yoga Massage Therapist allows her to be very hands on in her classes, helping her students adjust and get deeper within their practice, comfortably and at their own pace.
Her classes are always a little bit different from the last. With music that motivates the body and lifts the spirit. Her class environment is conducive to laughing one moment, or possibly discovering your true inner-self the next. Always applying her philosophy, “That little voice inside all of us is our own true teacher, all I want to do is turn up the volume.” Whatever you need from yoga, it will give you”.
Along with teaching Yoga, Vanessa is an avid runner and has been practicing Muay Thai Kickboxing for over 10 years. She enjoys taking her students on retreats to exotic places throughout the world, as well as helping them to find inspiration in their own backyards. Vanessa is a devoted vegan and believes that being compassionate should apply to all living creatures, not just humankind.
Website: Vanessa Van Noy
Facebook: Vanessa Van Noy


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