Each bone and each muscle in my body aches.
I walk with a slight limp because my hamstrings and glutes are tight and painful from a dozen too many parvrtta parvottanasana. My biceps feel as if they’re constantly flexed, and truth be told, maybe they are.
My thinking mind, my ego, does not want to practice this morning. I do not want to do five hours of asana today, or tomorrow, or each day in this remaining week of yoga teacher training.
I want to sleep, to rest, to raise my feet and watch a movie and snuggle with a man.
But, I won’t be doing any of that today. Or tomorrow. I haven’t done this for nearly a month, and I won’t be doing this for the foreseeable future.
I am a yoga teacher in training, and I know that to walk the yogic path, one that may lead to greater awareness and therefore to a greater good for all. I must dedicate my days to something larger than myself. I must adopt the practices perfected thousands of years ago—I must walk the eight-fold path the best I can.
I must have discipline.
It’s 5:30 a.m. I woke up at 5:00 a.m., drank from a copper pot filled with water, prayed and gave thanks for all the blessings in my life, layered a long tank over a sports bra and leggings.
In 30 minutes, I’ll march, barefooted, up white marble stairs to a long, narrow, window-lined yoga hall above my head, and wait patiently, without complaint, for my Ashtanga master to open the door. He’ll command the room from the moment he walks in. With a red tika ablaze on his skin, still fresh and tight from a morning dip in the Ganga, his brahmin dread will bounce slightly as he breezes past myself and a dozen other westerners from half as many countries. He’ll remove his watch and bracelet, adjust the waistband on his shorts, step atop a teaching platform and onto a long blue mat.
Then, he’ll turn to face us. His students.
He’s been awake since 4:00 a.m. He’s already done his own self-practice—a physically and mentally challenging style of yoga that he’s been practicing since his early teenage years.
He perfected each posture, pose by pose, until his own master said he was ready to continue; moving on to the next position in the primary series. Before he even learned samasthiti, he swept and scrubbed the floors of his yogshala for six months. Only then did his teacher tell him he could begin to learn the practice we know in the west as yoga—physical asana designed to prepare a body for comfortable seated meditation in which one can turn inward, and leave the physical body behind.
Now, a dozen years later, he still is practicing yoga asana and hasn’t progressed to the next rung of the ladder— pranayama—but yet he is more knowledgeable in yogasana technique, physical anatomy, and the arts of instruction and adjustment than any teacher I’ve practiced under in my six years of studio classes.
This man is a yogi with discipline.
I admire his dedication—something I can only hope to develop through years of faith in this practice, and to living a life based on mindful awareness, each and every day. It isn’t easy, for anyone, regardless if you were born in the birthplace of yoga or in the concrete jungles of North America or Japan.
But who ever said yoga was easy?
Yoga is one path to enlightenment, for all who show up. If followed, with dedication and faith, under the guidance of a guru or teacher (at least at first), each of us can progress past the partial ignorance and clouded minds of our lives and move into a place of peace and clarity. We can attain a one-pointed mind and see with near-full awareness, the experience of living.
But first, we must give ourselves to the practice.
We must develop routine. Devotion.
We must have faith in the practice, then commit—bodies, minds and spirits.
We must act as the self-realized master, living and breathing this life with intention, playing the part until we become the character himself. Yoga is discipline. Are you sure you’re ready?
If so, join me on this journey. A journey we can start together but that we must commit to, even if that means walking alone.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo Credit: elephant archives