Sunday, January 23, 2011

Practing Yoga For Yourself, Not For Anybody Else

Practicing Yoga For Yourself, Not For Anybody Else
Teaching is one of those professions where you can receive as much as you give and often learn just as much as you teach. 
This week we said goodbye to one of our long-term yoga students—Jagath.  As with all students who I spend time with each week in class, I learned a lot from him.
As Jagath would be the first to tell you, he came to class with some pretty tight hips.  When your hips are tight a lot of yoga poses can become difficult, especially if you are sitting on the floor. 
But Jagath had a knack for coming up with interesting ways to come into postures so that he could practice yoga in a way that suited his body.   He never gave up and he always found a way to practice, even if it meant he was doing something a little different from everyone else when it came time to some of the floor-sitting postures in particular.
This is the true spirit of yoga.  To find out more about yourself and cultivate a practice that can transform you so as to bring about health, peace, and joy. 
I know a lot of us worry about whether we are ‘good’ at yoga, wonder whether everyone else is better than us, or, conversely, derive more positive feelings when we can see that we are better than someone else. 
But the thing is, none of this matters.  It does not matter if someone looks better in a pose than you do or if you look better in a pose than they do.  It does not matter if you have to take a modified version of a posture when others are doing something different. 
What matters in your practice is how it feels inside. 
We all have different bodies, different abilities, and while a dedicated yoga practice will bring about transformation you are still going to be uniquely you.
A large part of the transformation that has the potential to take place on your yoga mat—if you allow it to—is a psychological transformation.  This transformation happens as you recognize that you have come to practice for yourself, and not for anybody else.  That you are there to practice to the best of your ability, and not to critically compare yourself with anybody else.    
And while it may be hard not to notice that someone else is doing a full backbend and you are not, perhaps instead of lamenting you can also take a moment to try one of the following.  First, could you stop and ask yourself whether your life would really be any better if you could do that pose? Second, could you use this as an opportunity to practice santosha--being OK with who you are, accepting what you are, without feeling the need for anything extra to make you happy?  Third, could you find pleasure in their joy (mudita) rather than begrudging it or finding fault with yourself?

With that, thanks to Jagath for some lessons learned.  Good luck in your future ventures and hope to see you soon—maybe on your path to becoming a yoga teacher yourself! 
To Jagath and everyone else, may your practice be peaceful and joyous!

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