Gotta Pay Your Dues
Greetings yogis! It’s been a wonderful few days here in Miami for Sharath Jois’ final stop on his USA tour. Not only has it been incredible for us Finding Isvara girls to get to spend time together in person, but getting to practice in a room with 200 other Ashtangis under the guidance of The Boss himself is a true honor and privilege.
That’s not to say it’s been easy—for me anyway (I’m no Carolyn, after all ;). I find Full Led Primary classes to be quite challenging. It’s one thing when I am on my own for Mysore practice—I have all the time in the world to get into difficult postures like Marichyasana D, Supta Kurmasana, and Garbha Pindasana. But in the led class, getting into and out of these postures on the teacher’s count is a totally different thing. And each class has been remarkably hot and sweaty, putting my physical endurance to the test.
As much as I intellectually understand that yoga is not about our ability to achieve, there’s still a little part of me that looks around and compares myself to others in the room. Here in Miami for Sharath, there are very advanced practitioners taking class right alongside those of us who are still fairly new. I can’t help but marvel as the girl next to me does beautiful jump-backs and jump-throughs without her feet touching the ground, transitioning easily into Bakasana from Bhujapidasana and Supta Kurmasana and jumping back, all on the count. Meanwhile, I have no strength to do these things I can usually do in my Mysore practice—let alone to the time of Sharath’s count. Instead, I get stuck in the down position of Bhujapidasana with my head trapped in the folds of my frumpled yoga towel, and have to creatively find a way out and into Chaturanga before the whole class has moved to the next posture! At least I could laugh at myself for that one, because it was pretty funny :)
As I talked to my husband on the phone after class one day, I told him how humbling it is to take class with such great practitioners. It’s a reminder that I am still very new to the practice. I often wonder if I will ever have the amazing strength and grace I see other practitioners exhibiting. He said something I loved: “Well, you gotta pay your dues.”
That’s exactly right! The beauty of established practitioners’ steadiness and ease is that they worked their asses off—probably for several years--to get to that point. I simply haven’t put in that kind of time yet.
And of course it really isn’t about their lovely jump-backs and arm balances. It’s about how the tapas of daily practice starts to change people in a deep, internal way. It’s their quiet in what feels like to me to be the eye of a storm—that’s what I really admire.
If this level of practice just came easily, we would take it for granted. So, I am thankful that Ashtanga yoga is challenging, because it is so fruitful if you are willing to put in the work. Instead of comparing, I aim to cherish this “infancy” period of my Ashtanga practice. I aim to try my best every day to appreciate and enjoy where I am at, and not be in a rush to be “advanced,” whatever that means. Though I may never fully get rid of that part of me that compares myself to others, I can develop my ability to focus inward instead of outward. I can remind myself that the true gift of yoga is increasing inner quietude with each passing week—not the ability to make a cool shape.