Yoga is a fabulous teacher. It’s one of those rare, gifted teachers that sets the stage for its students to learn their own lessons in their own time. Just when you think it will never make sense, that you will never fully complete a certain pose, and perhaps you’ve even decided that it’s OK if you don’t, something happens and it “clicks.” I remember a yoga class a few years ago in which I was having trouble balancing in ardha chandrasana (half-moon pose). My instructor came over to me and told me to shift my balance more into my big toe. It sounds minor, and maybe even ridiculous, but I was letting my balance roll onto the outside of my foot, and as she said, “The external is unreliable.” I needed to focus on the internal before I could open my heart any more. Now there’s a lesson to take off the mat. I needed to hear that to move further into the pose, but I left class that day with a greater lesson. These are the moments that remind us why we practice. But, despite the sense of accomplishment that comes with a new pose, achievement is not yoga’s true purpose. Not only is there always a next level of asana aspire to, but there are always new lessons to explore. This same instructor ended almost every class by telling us that our practices that day were perfect, no matter how much we may have stumbled, or even grumbled under our breaths. Our practices were our own, a true expression of who we were that day, and as such, always exactly right. If I was feeling special because I had managed to find a new bind that day, but the person next to me had felt terrible throughout the whole class, it didn’t matter. Our practices were of equal value because they were each a perfect expression of truth. Each student is on their own invaluable path, with endless opportunities for surprise at how deeply we can know ourselves, and how far our hearts can open.
photo courtesy of Chris Rief Photography