Some days, my yoga practice is a celebratory exploration of the strength and grace of a well-trained body and focused mind.
I become the kind of awesome that only superheroes can understand. But often it is a mess of tears and snot, sweat and fat, unmeetable expectations and seemingly insurmountable demons.
And a mind that will not. stop. spinning.
But always, always, I feel transformed afterwards. However intricate and insistent my resistance was before
I began, however thoroughly distracted and limited I felt during the practice, at the end I am grateful beyond
measure. Because consistency lays a foundation that transcends any one day’s successes or failures. And simply the act of practicing, day after day, allows for deep transmutation.
This is the power of perseverance.
I have long since passed the stage where my yoga practice gets me high the way it did when I was in college. Where it felt like recreation, like fun. There is a perennial joy to the exploration of muscles and bones, prana (life force energy) and vayus (winds), to the deep breathing and stretching and striving to be fully present in my body in this moment.
It is reigning in and realigning the mind, again and again—each practice chipping away at the armor, alchemizing the impurities, refining my attention so that I can, ultimately, just be myself.
I say things in my classes like,”Yoga cleans the window, so we can see life as it truly is.” What I don’t often say
is that first we tend to see the mess, the broken things, the ugly things, the stuck things inside ourselves. Then,
thankfully, yoga helps us clean up, de-armor, and disinfect. Little by little there is less judgment, less fear, less
illusion, less perpetuation of suffering.
But it can take a long time to experience true, lasting progress.
Years. Probably lifetimes. Epiphanies sometimes come with the regularity of rain in the Pacific Northwest, but often it can feel like one is wading through the endless desert of status quo sameness.And even when clarity comes, integrating a sparkling moment of transcendent understanding into daily life, being the person in the world you glimpsed on the mat, is a whole other piece of work.
So, I don’t do it for the bells and whistles, anymore.
I have accepted that enlightenment may be beyond me, at least
in this life. I do it for the well-earned tears and authentic laughter. For the ability to sit in my nakedness, witness
my complex mental pathologies, observe my intricate stories, and discover my incalculable beauty. I practice yoga
to see myself.
I practice because, without yoga, I would actually be a depressed crazy person. And sometimes, just sometimes, I get to feel like I’m flying (no cape required).
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Assistant Editor: Claire Weber / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons