People often ask me why I do yoga.
When I started doing yoga, I was so far away from “yoga” that it seemed like I was putting on a performance rather than actually practicing.
In the beginning, my mind translated the asanas into choreography, and with each movement, I was striving to perform them perfectly. My body would mimic the shapes of my teacher while my eyes were fixed on her, and, if at all possible, on myself too in the mirror.
It took me years, many of them, to begin to understand that I had it all wrong. Years after I studied and started teaching, I was still unconsciously falling back on what I knew: the outside and what I thought yoga should look like.
This is why today, I hate watching myself in a mirror during my practice. In fact, I deliberately place myself behind a pole if possible. This is also why I find social media’s boom of yogis, and the churning of more and more yoga selfies, getting on my nerves.
People say the photos are inspiring and motivating. Sure, but…it’s magnifying the idea that yoga can be experienced simply by creating a beautiful shape with our bodies.
If I were to have someone try and capture a photo of me doing yoga, they would have to capture the moment that I was in a dental chair breathing and unclenching my fists and softening my muscles. Or, they would have to snap a photo of me listening to my body and lying down in the middle of the day. These moments are internal.
Photos can be inspirational and informative, or beautiful for the sake of beauty. In many instances, people have been drawn to yoga through these very images. What I’m getting at is this: we can’t just see yoga.
When we filter through images way faster than we read heavy books and texts, the understanding of yoga has been diluted. It has been shortened to exotic poses in exotic places and quick one-liner inspirational quotes.
Yoga is our work to become one with our truest nature. It is the Divine within us, and that has nothing to do with rocking an amazing handstand on a beach somewhere or being able to balance on your fingertips. Those things are fun and amazing, and they can even be some of the tools we use to understand ourselves and our bodies. It is not just a pose. Yoga is about all of it working together to understand our true essence. It’s not just about the seen poses.
My practice is happening constantly and continuously, and it is a humbling one. Those random shapes that I sometimes contort my body into are just a part of my learning.
And that learning can’t be achieved by only “seeing” the pose. We must inhabit it.