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) to low pushup (Chaturanga Dandasana) 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.