I love my yoga. That is not to say it is easy. With a body like mine, pushing and pulling it into folds and bends and twists is not easy, and dealing with the fears of being upside down, not in control, without feet firmly on the ground (for only one of many examples) is a major challenge in itself. As much as I would love to be a yogi who can bend and fold, twist and turn, throw my legs into the air and into upside down lotus position on the right or left side at will, I will be a person who is content with the vast range of easier postures.
I have another challenge. The traditional path of yoga is 8 limbed, involving many approaches to living a good life. Yoga Asanas are only one of those limbs and not considered as a path in itself under Patanjali’s teachings. Indeed Patanjali rarely mentions asanas in his yoga sutras. And it is not the first, but the third of the eight fold path.
There is no leapfrogging into higher limbs of yoga. No amount of tree pose or lotus pose or boat pose or sun salutations will take you from beginner yogi to advance yogi in Patanjali’s sense. You must attend to your life. You must look after your body. You must master the reigning in of the mind, you must gain wisdom, not through books but experiential and meditation practices. Along the way you learn about service and bhakti and grace and gratitude. You let go and let go and let go until you feel like an onion unravelling. You learn more about yourself than you ever wanted to know. Sometimes you feel like the washing in the machine, tumbling and turning, not sure when the world will right itself again. You take responsibility for yourself, then those around you, then the world and then the universe. You understand peace and spaces at the cellular level. You know the priorities of life. You turn in and in and in and in until “out” has no meaning any more.
You get it, right? This path is multi faceted, confusing, complex and not so easy at times, but incredibly joyous. For me, yoga is a tool. I have written about my life before, you may have read it. Yoga is incredible, grounding, balancing. But in the end it is a tool that allows me to progress the important things in my life.
My challenge, perhaps yours too, is a complex one. Firstly, we do need to maintain a good focus on yoga to keep unwinding those knots and stretching out those muscles that hold the tension and traumas of a long life. So we continue to build that commitment to a home practice. However, on the other hand, we must also attend to the other aspects of this journey in this life, service, gratitude, bhakti, love, work, play, joy. Finding the right balance and learning to humbly and lovingly deal with the expectations of others is in my basket of current yoga challenges.