Is it OK to Love Asana?
Is it ok to love asana?
Well hopefully so... because I do!
It seems dedicated yogis often site Patanjali's Yoga Sutras in regards to this topic: on the yogic path, we aren't "supposed" to be attached to anything, including the practice of yoga itself, and definitely not the individual shapes we make on our mats. In fact, "practice" and "non-attachment" are inexorably linked in achieving the main goal of yoga:
Yoga Sutra 1.12: abhyasa vairagyabhyam tad nirodhah:
Control over the mind's fluctuations comes from persevering practice and nonattachment.
The truth of the matter is that few of us have mastered non-attachment, and that some degree of attachment to one's practice may even be necessary during the beginning stages--that's what my mentor Greg Nardi posited during one of our recent philosophy talks. In the beginning, that attachment can serve as a motivator to practice yoga consistently.
Even if we are past the beginning stage, we may still be "attached" to the asanas in the sense that their mastery is important to us. But the beauty is that many powerful transformations start to happen despite--maybe even as a result of--this attachment.
I know yoga is supposed to be about these deeper transformations and not whether the asanas look aesthetically pleasing. Perfectly aligning your pelvis means nothing if you're not motivated to be a better human off your mat. But personally, I enjoy the physicality of practice. I enjoy getting to know my body and refining its mobility and alignment. I like feeling my breath and burning off excess energy. If I didn't, I could probably just meditate and be satisfied with that avenue of growth.
I don't think it's a problem to love asana, and I'm not even sure that affinity necessarily constitutes attachment. To me, the degree of attachment is uncovered when things do not go our way. For instance, if you're able to bind Supta Kurmasana one day but not the next, are you able to let go of the outcome and continue with a calm mind? Or are you bothered every time you can't accomplish your goal?
I used to think "attachment" was binary, like a light switch: either you are or you aren't. From studying yoga philosophy, however, I've come to understand that it's more of a continuum. Many of us naturally feel bummed when we fall short in an asana, but often we show resilience by quickly being able to move on with the rest of practice... and life. As we progress in our practice, our ability to let go of expectation grows.
So I think it's ok to delight in your physical practice--with dedication and consistency, yoga has a way of changing your life for the better no matter what your initial (or continual) motivation.
Love n' Namaste,