A Yogi, Humbled
I’m an opinionated loud mouth who can’t take no for an answer. I don’t like to be wrong. I don’t like it when I can’t be the best in the room. I need my ego stroked to feel secure. I fiend for the affection of those I admire. I am a typical Type-A perfectionist.
There. I said it. I own it.
I like to think I’ve come a long way in that regard, but also know I have a lifetime of work ahead of me. I acknowledge that I need to be constantly humbled to stay balanced.
My yoga practice does that for me.
You can’t fake asana. You can either do the posture or you can’t. I can’t force a handstand to impress my teacher. Not that he’d actually give two shits, but as I mentioned above, I fiend.
If you don’t have the steadiness and strength to balance on your hands, it won’t happen no matter how cool you think you are or how bad you want it. In fact, those things are an impediment to progress!
For someone like me, who's been able to smooth their way through a lot in life, this is a needed experience. I’m generally smart and savvy enough to fake it till I make it in most instances, but with yoga, I simply can’t. There is no coercing my hands to bind in supta kurmasa. I cannot bargain my way into a deeper backbend. Humbling myself enough to put in the work, day in and day out, without expectation, is the only way these postures are coming. There is no other way. I must simply fail, time and again, until one day I don’t. Or maybe I do forever. I have to be willing to take that chance. I have to actually work my ass off. I won't say that I've never worked hard before, but my yoga practice has required the kind of work that triggers extreme feelings of unease. Working outside my comfort zone where I might look dumb? Oh, hell no.
But a funny thing has happened over the last six and a half years that I’ve been practicing yoga. I’ve begun to crave that experience. I’ve begun to yearn for the growth that accompanies being the least experienced person in the room. I enjoy the work of a posture that isn't quite there. I see the potential for expansion in my mind and body and I’m open to the challenge. I’ve tasted the sweetness of humility and it's actually pretty good.
Y’all, I think the yoga is working.
I used to avoid doing poses that challenged me, in public anyway, and would relish the chance to show off postures I could do well. Now, being “good” at a pose doesn't excite me all that much. I find myself caring less and less if someone around me has a more advanced asana practice than I do. Dare I say I hardly notice? Ok, so maybe that last part is not quite true. I definitely notice. But then I remind myself that A) asana practice is nothing more than a catalyst for internal growth and the exact shapes matter very little, and B) maybe I could learn something from this person!
I think it just finally clicked. Not knowing is sometimes better than knowing. Being a beginner has more potential than being an expert. As I grew in my asana practice, especially over the last two years, I think my ego had just had enough and my mind, body, and soul craved a deeper experience - the kind that can only come from humbling yourself and doing the work.
I still feel the initial sting of failure when I can’t quite make a pose happen, especially if a teacher is watching, but I process those feelings a lot better these days. They don't send me down a shame spiral like they did in the past. I acknowledge them, and (usually) move on.
I’d just like to take this opportunity to say, once again, that yoga practiced with sincere dedication works. If you step onto your mat with the intention of working inward, your connection to your true, peaceful self grows stronger. I don’t know that it’s possible to get your ass on your mat and humble yourself before this mighty practice and not become a better person. To paraphrase Pattabhi Jois - you practice posture, breathing, and focused gaze for many years, and shanti is coming. No problem.