Yoga is not about touching the toes…

Today’s practice was a total disaster. It created a wreck out of me at the end. I was not in tune with my breath, and I kept thinking if my arm or lower back could take that one step further. My ego self got the better of me, and I got crushed. Today, it was so hard to let go of yesterday, to let go of what I was able to do pre-injury. It was so hard to just be in the present, to let go of everything and be ok with whatever little I could do on the mat. In all the yoga blogs that you read, you seldom come across posts that tell about their bad practice. The picture was always rosy, and even if they were struggling with an injury or bad time on the mat, they still seem to always emerge the conqueror. 

But, today I was defeated. I kept questioning why, what, when,how. Why did this happen to me? What I am suppose to learn from this all and how am I going to overcome this? When will all this be over and I can resume my regular practice? And of course, these silly questions or “citta vrtti” made me feel worse.

I whined about it to my best friend, B. And she just replied this: “Remember, Yoga is not about touching the toes…” How convenient for us to always forget this! It never was about touching the toes! Its the process of getting there.

Too often we get caught up in a particular goal that we do not pay attention to ourselves, if the goal was even realistic or attainable at the current stage of our lives we are in. I was so intent on coming up from my drop backs till the point of frustration that I didn’t care what it took for me to do it, ignored the alarms from my body telling me I’m doing it wrongly and that I should just stop and re-evaluate. And finally, after reaching Laghu Vajrasana in the Intermediate Series, my poor lower back whom I have been quietly ignoring gave way. The crunched up pain was too hard for me to bear alas. And the most amusing part, I thought that by just pushing myself ahead, the pain will go away. My arm was another story. An egoistic me, while deciding to try out a jump through to show that I can do it, felt something in my arm snapped or pulled beyond its normal range. And again, because it didn’t cause much pain, I ignored it. And obviously, it got worse. Why…why do we have to wait till its too late to realise what we were doing was wrong? Why didn’t I listen to my body and quell that fiery ego. What do I have to prove? So what If i have the best back bend or the strongest arms but not being able to practice humility and patience? Where’s that going to take me? No where. No where at all.

I have much to learn….but first, to learn to let go of my regular practice and the past. To let go of my dogs and be happy with my baby cobras and child’s pose. To live in the present and accept that my injuries are here to befriend me for a while more. And it probably will not go away till it has taught me what I need to know.

What is Yoga

It has been some time that I wanted to start a blog on my yoga journey, but just didn’t quite get down to it. Yoga found me some 10 years ago, but I never really got serious about it till I was introduced Ashtanga yoga. It totally transformed me and got me enrolled into a Yoga Teacher Training this May with Alicia Cheung from Yogaworks in Bali. One of the pre-training assignments given was to come up with a short write up on what yoga is. It wasn’t until I injured my arm and lower back recently, that gave me the inspiration to start on it, and an apt first entry to my blog.

Here goes, What is Yoga?

Many writers and yoga practitioners define yoga as originating from India, and is essentially the union of the body, mind and spirit. Some also define yoga as simply a conscious awareness of your breath with your motion. To the community out there, most see yoga as another sport, as a means to keep the body lean and healthy. And to those who have only as much heard of the word yoga, envision yoga to be some exercise that contorts the body to pretzel looking shapes, meant only for the flexible. Hence, the definition of yoga seems to vary with each individual, depending on how deep your relationship with it is.

Importantly, what is yoga to me? Yoga to me has transcended beyond the physical asanas. Yoga has evolved for me with time. It has become more an inward experience. And many parallels can be drawn with life. Each time I bring myself to the mat, I can be doing the same sequence yet it is different. Depending on my body condition or the sleep quality I have, or if my mind is cluttered, each brings a different kind of experience to my mat. What I’ve yet to learn however, is not to let my ego get the better of me. More often than not, I find myself comparing with the person next to me, or wondering how many poses have he/she be given. All these strips away the concentration I so need when I’m at my own practice. And with that, it takes away my humility as well.

It is only when we are hit hard, do we take a step back to analyze. What went wrong. Have I pushed myself too hard ? Am I paralyzed by fear? Have I not learned to trust myself ? Have I gone too far too fast ? The physical asanas have evolved to become more of a mental and spiritual experience. What you learn about yourself on the mat is how you are off the mat.

I know this yoga journey I am on is a life-long one. I will have my good days and my bad days on and off the mat, I will fall, I will learn to pick myself up again, I will learn to work within my limitations and embrace it, I will live within the imperfections and find my own perfection in them. I will learn through the pains and sufferings and not avoid them. That is where the heart of yoga to me lies. Isn’t that also what the essence of life is really? To deal with the adversities that life has to bring and grow all the wiser, stronger? And, during this self-discovery, to find that inner light within, to live light, spread the light and be that light.