Why was I doing this? I wasn’t good at yoga challenges, nor did I want to get better at it. My type A personality yearned for joy, flexibity, a creative yoga practice, not a six day ashtanga yoga challenge.
It was day four of this six day Madonna Yoga Challenge, and by 5 pm I realized I wasn’t going to do it. Which gave me two choices:
a) do nothing, like I had on day 3. I had talked about Madonna, and watched her videos all night with my gay best friend, but this didn’t count of course.
b) do a different yoga practice, like I had on day 4.
Both would mean I had failed, but I decided to go for plan b anyway: just go on the mat, and do whatever I liked.
And guess what? Five minutes later I was on my mat doing ashtanga sun salutations A. Half an hour later I was doing the standing poses. I had a practice that was completely in line with my challenge, yet I had achieved it by giving myself permission to do something else.
The love of your life
Today I read a post about someone who has found her true love in ashtanga yoga.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with this practice: ashtanga yoga is a fixed series of sun salutations and yoga poses. And doing ashtanga every day is as appealing (My shoulders shape up! I have abs!) as it is impossible. There has been only one time in my life when I didn’t practice for months, and that was when I was coming down from a daily ashtanga regiment, that was required for my teacher training. For me, ashtanga has been like dating an attractive man of questionable character: I moved through love, more love, and then despair, before I just stopped caring.
About a month ago, I made a resolution about dating:
I was never going to aspire relationships.
Not with men I was in love with, and whose company I craved. Not with men I wasn’t in love with, but who made pleasant partners. I wouldn’t. If I would fall in love, and he with me, and it all went by itself, then who knows what the future would bring. But I wasnt going to wish for a situation in which I shared my life with someone else.
I like writing, working, sleeping alone, unplanned weekends, cooking for myself. My happiest moments are when I am alone. And the other happy moments are when there is someone special in my bed. My happiest moments are never when I am “trying to make something work”.
Hence my new resolution: To enjoy my love life as it came, and stop trying to shape it.
Yoga what bliss art thou
In a lot of ways my fixed ideas about what I wanted in relationships, have kept me from enjoying what was there. And the same goes for yoga: the weeks that I set myself a challenge, or practiced a fixed series, I can only feel what doesn’t work. Or how it’s not perfect. My body doesn’t get a chance to tell me stuff, because I’m committed to the practice, not my personal wishes. We’re on a quest, a mission to complete whatever series it is that needs completing, and listening to a body that doesn’t feel like doing anything mandatory, doesn’t help. Better ignore it, take a deep breath, plunge in, and be done with it.
“Making” yourself do a certain practice is like the same as committing yourself to a relationship: the revenues need to be bigger than the costs. And in my case, just the fact that it is mandatory, creates so much resistance that the revenues will never be able to top it.
Being a solitary yogi
Just like being single, being a solitary yogi (not having a guru, not having a fixed series of yoga) is not a status that most of us strive for. We hope that some day, on a mountain top in India, an ash-covered Saddhu will tell us the right way to practice. Or that a new studio will open, with the perfect teachers, and the perfect class times for exactly our type of yoga, and every day we will go there. And maybe for some of us that will happen.
But beware! When you like a practice, a yoga school or a teacher, that still doesn’t mean that you’re going to enjoy it every day for the rest of your life. Maybe your time together is limited, and by wanting to hold onto it, or creating a deep relationship that isn’t there, you spoil the moment.
Next time you go to your mat, feel what it means for you to not have a fixed program. To have complete freedom. And do the yoga your heart tells you. You will get to know yourself, your body, some say you will know God.
And the moment that happens? You will never let any practice come between that.