There is a quote that sums up my experience heretofore with yoga better than anything else I’ve ever read. I don’t know from whom or where the quote came, or I would totally give the person mega props and a huge, bear-like, electronic hug. The quote goes a little something like this:
“My yoga practice is no longer the battlefield of a long-waged self-improvement project by an overachieving person. It has become what I always hoped it would be — a place for love and acceptance.”
I think this quote embraces the yoga journey for many of us, because let’s be real here: How many of us started yoga because we wanted a thinner waist and perky yoga butt? How many of us, in the beginning, saw yoga as something we would conquer rather than embrace? How many of us saw someone in Crow Pose and said to ourselves, “I can do that shit.”
Over time, however, as we dove deeper into our practice — no doubt bumbling, grunting and falling along the way — our hardened layers begin to peel away, and we were left with the lingering feeling that yoga is something more than a way for us to gain strength, flexibility and balance. As we emerged from Savasana, time and time again, we began to realize that something else — something besides exercise — is going on here.
This gradual shift manifests itself in a lot of ways. We become more relaxed. We become more patient with ourselves and others. We let go of pessimism and embrace hope. The frown lines in our brow soften. We release our death grip on personal goals. Sarcasm is replaced with sincerity. Our obstinate missions become introspective journeys. Contentment is seen as attainable, rather than laughable. And most importantly, we see ourselves for who we are, as we are — and we’re okay with it.
But the greatest part about this journey is that the power for us to transform isn’t something external that we’re constantly grasping for; it’s not that extra mile we’re trying to run or that last five pounds we’ve just got to lose. The power for us to transform resides within us — all we have to do is tap into that power. Krishnamacharya famously said that “Yoga is not bringing you something that you don’t already have. It is seeking those places that are blocking what you already have, and dissolving those blockages.” That gradual shift I mentioned? Think of it as blockages being dissolved.
As we look back on that person who initially mounted yoga like a bucking bronco and said, “Let’s go, you! Make me look like Shiva Rea! H’yah!” we can smile and laugh. Because, oh, how far we’ve come.