There are days when I think I have my yoga practice all figured out. Days when I feel like I know all about the Gita, the Sutras, the mantras, the variations, and the limbs of the tree. These are the days my yoga practice teaches me a lesson that reminds me I am still clueless.
Take last week, for example. I unrolled my mat, decided to move into deeper exploration of the intermediate ashtanga sequence, and discovered that my body was “having issues” in places it should not have been (wrists issues, knee issues, sciatic nerve pinching kind of issues, you get the idea). I felt heavy and stagnant. I actually felt as if I was moving through mud just to get from one pose to the next, and the mere effort of keeping my breath, bandhas and drishti under control seemed an incredibly impossible task.
I was devastated. Well, my ego was devastated for a few minutes when I finally made it to savasana. I though, “How is this possible?” I couldn’t understand what had changed from one day to the next. The day before, I had moved through primary so smoothly and with such strength that I was sure the next day’s practice would be, if not the same (because I do realize each day is a new, different kind of practice) certainly not as different as it ended up being.
I was ready to beat my-self up about it when I suddenly realized something about the yoga practice I cannot believe I had not understood before. The practice had just challenged me. My yoga practice had apparently decided to make it worth my while to push my body through the “energetic mud”, and offered me a challenge to work through. My practice had really put me to the test that morning, and I have to say, it was well worth it. It was worth the pain because I was able to become present enough to know when to push and when not to and when and how to adjust whatever was not working for me that morning. It was worth it because I used more energy, breath, and focus, and received more energy in return. And finally, it was worth it because I now realize the yoga practice is a living, breathing thing.
The very moment you unroll your yoga mat for the very first time, is the very moment you have just given birth (or life) to your practice. From that moment on, the practice grows, just as you grow.
It becomes stronger, more open, and more intuitive. It hungers for more; it yearns to rest and also to be challenged. It releases emotions and allows creativity to flourish. It gets inspired and depleted. It yearns to be free from time to time but it demands commitment, devotion and discipline. It joins in as you laugh and cry or get angry. It reminds you not to give up, but to ground down instead. It shows you a way to connect with yourself and others more effectively. It allows you to see the world through the eyes of compassion and love that you have tried to keep closed for so many years.
It brings you face to face with your fears, your longing, your anger, your joy, your pain, your heart-ache, your pride, your compassion, your hatred, your forgiveness, your courage, your beliefs, your ideas, your lies, your truths; simply put, the practice bring you face to face with every single part of your self, no holds bar.
The practice challenges you when you are resistant to allow things to evolve in your life, or when you are resisting change or simply when there is more room for growth with in. Maybe it suddenly takes your ability to do sirsasana away for a few months so you can re-learn it from the very beginning again. Maybe it decides it is time to find out just how committed you are by making it really heavy and hard to move through so much as a restorative class.
Whatever you are most in need of, the practice will provide. It will shine a light through the shadows and will watch and be proud of every step you take. It will grow as you grow, and it will expect a level of devotion, commitment and continuity at all times.
So even on the days when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and there is no possible way you can do yoga, know that the practice awaits you patiently, and if you give it a chance, even for 5 minutes, it will welcome you, heal you, guide you and change you.
Karen Horney once said, “Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.” And since yoga is a full representation of lie, I say, yoga is a very effective therapist.
So don’t ever give up on your practice, because it will never give up on you.