I've said it before, other yogis have said it before, and I'll say it again: yoga is not about getting into a pose.
All the time, I hear people say, "I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible enough. I'm not coordinated. I could never do that. I can't do yoga."
But yoga isn't about being able to do anything physical. It's not about flying in forearm stand. It's about all that you learn on your way to maybe being able to fly in forearm stand (if you want to, that is), or touch our toes, or whatever.
Yoga is about what happens internally. Honestly? Yoga is about getting to know yourself. Yoga is about living authentically. Yoga is about becoming a better person.
Let's talk about it.
When I surprised myself last Tuesday morning and bound into Marichyasana D for the first time ever... I wasn't excited about getting Marichyasana D because "CHECK THAT POSE OFF THE LIST, PEOPLE, HELL YEAH NOW I CAN TAKE A PHOTO OF ME IN IT, I CAN DO IT, THEREFORE I AM A BETTER YOGI, YAHOO! VICTORY! ACCOMPLISHED!"
No, not at all. Haha =)
In fact, one of the principles of yoga is non-attachment, and that includes not attaching ourselves to things like 'accomplishing' poses. When I really started thinking about this during teacher training, I had this "oh fuck" moment. All this time, I thought to myself, I have been setting goals for myself to try and do certain postures... have I been totally going against all that is yoga?!
NO. Haha thankfully my teachers Laurel and Mary Ellen reaffirmed me that there is a difference between practicing with intention and practicing with attachment.
Practicing with intention means yes, sure, I do have a goal in mind, but I do not attach myself to achieving a pose in a way like: "I NEED TO DO THIS POSE." Or, "I will not be a good yogi until I get this pose," Or, "I am going to be so cool when I do this pose." ... You get the picture.
Rather, you just see it, and you can strategically and intentionally work towards a posture, but you do not place strings on it. You see it, you flirt with it, but you do not wrap your arms around it and hug it so tightly that you never want to let go. Practicing without attachment means that you do not place something like self-worth or self-identification with being able to do a certain pose. I am not a better person/yogi/whatever because I am able to do physically do Marichyasana D or any other pose. I am not a bad yogi because I can't (YET) hold handstand in the middle of the room.
So why was I excited about doing the pose?
I was excited because of the energy I felt flowing in me, I mean... it was electric. I was excited because of all that I was learning about myself through committing to my practice and never giving up. I was excited because I kept trying to do something that a large part of me thought I'd never be able to do. Seriously: I never thought I'd be able to do that. It was another moment where yoga shouted at me: STOP UNDERESTIMATING YOURSELF. And it's not just about underestimating myself on my mat, it's about not underestimating myself in life.
That's really why I love working towards physically advanced postures, they're empowering! True statement: every weird pose I may post a photo of on here or insta or where ever (especially forearm stand, because that was a major barrier breaker for me), I can guarantee I looked at for years thinking to myself, "I could NEVER do that."
All it takes is trying. All it takes doing one little thing you've never done before on that yoga mat to realize: yes you can. And then: holy crap. WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?
And I don't mean just on the mat, of course.
That is just one of the amazing lessons of yoga: we are capable of so much.
When you take that lesson off the mat, that's where the yoga really happens. You start to look at life with a new lens.
For instance, here are some of the questions I've been playing with lately inspired by my practice:
- What other things have I avoided because I thought they were impossible, what other things in my life did I think weren't for me? Is any of that true? Why have I held on to these notions?
- How else have I underestimated myself? Why do I doubt myself, and why do I continue to do so?
- How can I develop a deeper confidence and belief in what I have to offer the world?
- How else can I commit myself with the same purpose I did with that pose to other areas in my life to better myself and the world around me? Wait, woa, I like that idea: how can I more fully focus in and realize my potential to use my unique gifts to really make a difference?
Now THAT is deep shit. And THAT is a little bit of what the physical practice of yoga has taught me.
Thanks for teaching me, Marichyasana D and other weird poses. I know we're far from finished with your lessons. See ya on the mat.
Coming next on the blog... what forearm stand taught me.