I recently read a blog post that really challenged how I view my yoga practice. This writer was positing that "fancy" yoga poses like handstands and arm balances are unnecessary in a practice and that the meat of the practice is in basic yoga . And if you get interested enough, you don't need to keep working yourself up for these really hard poses, when there is plenty of good work to be done in Warrior 1, or Bridge pose. That as a practitioner ages, their practice becomes more "boring". Yes, I totally agree. And I totally disagree.
She is 34 (ancient). I am 35, and have been practicing since 1998ish, so about fifteen years or so. I don't know if this puts me in the ancient category or if I've had enough practice to where I get to make my practice boring again yet, but I do not connect with her sentiment about coming back to a super pared down practice out of interest. Don't get me wrong, I am not uninterested in Warrior 1 or Bridge pose. These are my home base. This is where I begin and end my practice and find myself home. But one thing that has resonated with me over the years from my Buddhist meditation experience is the principle of equanimity. That is, treating your enemy as you would your friend. Not discriminating between attraction and aversion, as they are two sides of the same coin. And I try to apply this to my yoga practice as well. I do the poses that I don't like as much, and ones that I haven't mastered yet in a balanced way with the ones that have been in my asana toolbox since the beginning. They are the same. Discriminating one from the other is a nod to the ego as much as watching oneself do handstands in the mirror is. Lets get real about why we avoid certain poses. If I have been practicing Pavritta Bakasana, or Side Crow for years, just haven't gotten that pesky fulcrum point down yet, and can't hold it worth a shit, I may back away from incorporating it into my daily practice because it makes me feel inept. Ok, but does that mean that it wasn't helping me to be humbled by this pose every damn day? Absolutely not. This is as much a part of the practice as flowing confidently between poses that I love. It teaches me discipline, dedication, right effort, and concentration, humility and letting go. All valuable lessons, I'd say.
Take Handstand for example. We play a game of cat and mouse that is most intriguing. Most of the time she evades me quite effectively, maybe letting me caress her for a brief moment or two. Now and again my passion and hunger for her has lit me up so bright that I must find her and we embrace for a ferocious tryst . Our encounters have become longer and longer, by seconds not by minutes. And when we meet, it's like looking into the present moment so completely that I am left breathless. She hides, I seek. This is how we play. She has beguiled me, and I am too interested to turn away. Her wish is my command. This is deeper than ego. This is Rumi poem. And my tenacious pursuit enlivens my practice, makes me beyond interested; it brings me to the edge of the cliff, and every time, I dive...
Diving into that mystery is yoga.
Of course there is mystery in poses we've practiced for years. The fact that I could've done Warrior 1 for fifteen years and that there is still something unknown in it is, I think, this author's point. I completely agree.
That we should scrap all advanced poses in search of the mystery only in a basic practice...I completely disagree.
I have to choose to not discriminate what I love and what makes me feel like a bumbling clown. I have to feel both confident and humbled, in the course of one practice. In each practice. This is how yoga helps me uncover myself, and peel away the layers of pretense. The way this practice lifts me up and keeps me grounded all at the same time are a testament to it's enormity and inclusion of all types of practitioners. Lets give it the same respect.
As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!