Your Yoga: Don’t Cheat the Journey!
Many of my students have probably heard me say, when referring to asana, the physical postures of yoga, “it’s not about getting into the pose perfectly as much as it is about the journey.” The journey is what got us here, and the journey is what keeps us coming back. After all, if you walked into a yoga class and could do every pose perfectly, breathe perfectly the entire time, reach samadhi (enlightenment) each time, and levitate off of the floor each time, I would imagine there may not be a lot left for you in a yoga class. But for all of us who are still practicing, it’s about the journey.
I admit, as a teacher I have a pet peeve. Yes, although we might not like to admit it, yoga teachers are human, and we have pet peeves! Mine is when students, usually newer to the practice, bend over to touch their toes, without listening to my verbal directives, and compromise the integrity of their spinal alignment. Or when a student disregards my instructions to the group during handstand practice, runs over to the wall and kicks his/her feet up, with no awareness of the shoulders, the bandhas, the core strength, or the overall control that such a pose demands. But I completely understand and acknowledge that that is MY issue, and one that I’m working to overcome as I guide those students gently back to our reason for being here: the journey.
Maybe you are at the point in Uttanasana where you are able to touch your toes or the mat without rounding or straining your back, but you’re still working on keeping the bandhas engaged while there. Or maybe you’re just grabbing the backs of your legs at this point and working to elongate the spine, engage the quads, and breathe appropriately. Maybe in inversion practice you’re still working on dolphin push-ups to strengthen those shoulders without being in a rush to actually kick up into the handstand yet. Or maybe you are able to bring both legs up simultaneously over your head but are now working on engaging the entire body enough to hold it there for a few breaths. My point is, every one of us is at a different place in our journey, and it’s not fair to ourselves, nor beneficial, to rush to the end without seeing and enjoying everything the path has to offer.
I encourage you to observe this in your yoga practice. Observe your journey and where you might feel that sense of urgency, or ego, or rush. Ask yourself what the hurry is. Why do you need to touch your toes in this moment? It’s not for the hamstring stretch, because if you have tight hamstrings you can get the same benefit from an appropriate modification. Why do you need to do the handstand, relying primarily on the wall, today? In a world where everyone seems to be rushed and hurried and stressed constantly, let your mat be your place to slow down and let down. From me to you: enjoy the journey.