On the joys of the unattainable

I’ve been doing yoga for just over a year now.  It really struck me as amusing this morning when I realized that the anniversary of ths profoundly life-altering decision had come and gone sans my attention to it.  (Anybody who regularly reads this blog will know I’m a sucker for anniversaries).

It’s not that it’s been a year since the first time I got into downward-facing dog pose – actually, a friend from long ago, J, introduced me to yoga nearly a decade back, and I knew then how special and extraordinary it was.  But I was clueless as to how it could fit into my life.

Not long before we left for the Philippines, Chris suggested we enroll in a yoga class in London.  Having someone with whom to enroll took all the fear out of it for me (I was shockingly unfit at the time), and I never hesitated for a second.  That lasted 6 weeks, though, and then we were off, visiting France (where we did a few asanas, but nothing that impressive), road-tripping around the U.S. (where we did exactly nothing for more than a month), and then making our way to the Philippines, where copious amounts of stress, heat and humidity for the first few months meant that – in spite of that being the picture-perfect scenario for getting my practice up and running – yoga was forgotten again for a while. The running excuse was that we didn’t have mats.

Then Chris got us mats for my birthday present.  And we’d already bought a book that has turned out to be an indescribably helpful tool.  So in early April last year, we got started.  (While Chris is a tiny bit less adamant about his practice, he’s been pretty good about continuity, too) The practice we try (somewhat pathetically) to follow is quite well-known – Astanga – and it’s not all that old, actually, particularly in terms of Hatha Yoga generally, which is estimated to have originated sometime around the 11th Century.

Astanga by contrast came formally into existence in 1948, and its founder, K. Pattabhi Jois, only died a few years ago.  There’s a certain rhythm to Astanga that I really like, and the fact that it’s based on very prescriptive sequences of asanas (we’re in no way nearing perfecting any of them, and can’t even begin to fathom doing lots of them) makes it quite easy to practice from home, because once you’ve figured out what you’re meant to do, you just do that sequence the next time and the next time again.

Want to see something extraordinarily beautiful?  Here’s a film in which the yogi does about 50 asanas I’ll probably never be able to do.  Thing about yoga is, that’s completely OK.

There’s been talk about how yoga can be really bad for the body.  In my really, really humble opinion (because I honestly know how much I don’t know about all this stuff), it’s almost always a case of the ego being bad for the body.  Yoga isn’t about how soon one can stand on one’s head.  But, even if one really gets that (and, admittedly, I struggle with my ego every time I practice), and even if one does yoga simply with the purest of intentions, one cannot help but progress!  And reap some extraordinary benefits along the way.

Some of the benefits I’ve reaped include:

  • no more pain in my feet and ankles that originated from a very serious injury several years back and the subsequent surguries to address it
  • considerably increased emotional calm (but only when I’m consistent)
  • considerably decreased dowager’s hump (almost gone!)
  • increased overall mobility
  • significantly improved posture

It’s hard to articulate all of it.  Regularly practicing yoga has changed so much about my life, and maybe that’s why the anniversary so nonchalantly slipped my mind:  yoga has eased its way into my vision of myself and the world around me.  Working toward a perfect state of well-being has ceased, in large part owing to my yoga practice, to be a chore.  Instead, I realize that perfect state of well-being is completely unattainable.

And I’m relishing running toward it anyway.

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2 thoughts on “On the joys of the unattainable

  1. suncitymom says:

    OK so I watched the video and have a hard time believing that anyone can do all the things this lovely lady did without starting out at the age of 2 and never ever enjoying scrumptious ice cream, Big Macs, peanut butter sandwiches with apricot jam, pumpkin pie or home-made bread or any of those things……..my yoga is for those over 55 who huff and puff and follow the teacher as best as we can and my Tai Chi instructor knows the difficulties of lifting one’s foot very high when one is past the age of 65…….but will just keep on keepin’ on. Go for it daughter!!!!

  2. ann says:

    you’re probably right! still, watching expert yogis pull their asanas seemingly without breaking a sweat is magical for me…not unlike watching great dancers…and maybe that’s what yoga is, after all – a bit of a dance with our egos and our monkey minds and what have you!

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