Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 8 August 2013

I Can See Clearly, Now: Thoughts on a Less Than Perfect Yoga Practice

"Less than perfect;" now, there's an understatement.  The truth is, I'm not much of a yogini. (I don't even think of myself as such a creature.)  Asana practice is difficult for me. In yoga, we are warned of eventually hitting the wall or a plateau in our practice, a place where we can't seem to move forward.  In my case, that wall feels more like a rocky cliff I'm climbing, using only my bare hands and feet, and I can't see the top.  Sanskrit and anatomy terms don't stick in my head.  I do my reading.  I think I'm attentive, studiously highlighting passages and taking notes, but when asked to recite the eight limbs of yoga, I find myself tongue-tied. (Who would have thought?)  Far from being a shining example of a yoga practitioner, let alone an aspiring teacher, I feel as if I'm serving as the "horrible warning."

It's a long, rocky climb to those yoga peaks.

On Wednesday, Colin opened his Level 1 class by asking the question, "Why do I do yoga?"  His answer, for that day, was, "I practise yoga because it helps me see clearly."  He went on to explain that attention to asana charged his body-his skin becomes a heightened sensory organ which allows him expanded awareness of how he moves in space and how space moves around and within him.  We spent the next hour and a half exploring movements we often take for granted, beginning with a simple hand/arm moving meditation through precise alignment in Tadasana and into Utthita Trikonasana.  We explored the shifting of our feet as we moved from Triangle Pose into Utthita Parsvakonasana.  We took the postures to the wall, down onto the floor and drew our attention to the changes that occur when gravity is softened in the mix. We were encouraged to bring ourselves to the room, to the mat, to "the flick of the wrist" of which Kate Bush sings so poetically.  Then we were done. For now.

I think, maybe, this is why I continue to practise, despite knowing that my dreams of modelling for Yoga Journal will likely remain figments of my imagination, despite the frustration of no longer absorbing information the way I once did.  Although my primary interest lies in yoga therapy, I think that I might get what Colin means when he says that he practises yoga as an art form.

Practice as art is what calls me to fibre work, to drawing and painting, to writing.  I practise these things for the joy of doing, for the process. I can spin or knit or weave well when I choose to do so. I'm happy with the paintings, drawings and photos I produce.  I can write; sometimes, that writing is just dandy.  All this happens when/because I don't care about the results. Something calls me and I do it, over and over and over.  As a result of that repetition, that non-attachment to results, I become one with the act. It's there that I find the most success.

This didn't happen by magic.  None of it came easily to me-my first spinning instructor told me that I might as well quit (before the first day of a 3 day workshop was over) because I would never be a spinner.  I took all kinds of drawing and painting classes until I found a teacher whose response to my frustration at not drawing like the other students-"Why would you want to draw like everyone else?"-resonated with me and I finally allowed my personal style to grow.  The handful or so of paid writing gigs I've had would be lost under the pile of rejection letters, if I'd kept them.  (By the way, a rejection by email is not as painful for some reason.) A sensible person would have quit by now, but a stubborn person would not. I have been known to display a stubborn streak now and then.

So it is with yoga.  I practise and I make the effort to practise sincerely, in the best way I'm able in that moment.  Although I'm in teacher training, my goal is not necessarily to be a yoga teacher, or rather, I don't assume that I'll teach anyone but myself .  Most of the time, I struggle to find improvement, because I haven't learned to be unattached to results in yoga, but I carry on working.  Sometimes, just for a moment, I notice something about Tadasana, how a slight movement would improve my pose, how this muscle or that muscle is a bit stronger than it was a year ago when I move into Triangle Pose, how mental struggles are not as constant as they were a few months ago.  Once in a while, effort shifts into skill, the fog lifts and I can see the top of that mountain.  It's distant, perhaps unattainable, but the art is in that slight shift in my hands, attention to the placement of my feet, the feel of my body as it moves in space.  I'm not yet ready to let go and allow my practice to simply happen, but, when I look back, down to the valley, I can see how far I've come.  It's been a nice journey, so far.



  1. Thanks for this, Deb! I love the idea of spinning and knitting for the fun not the product. I'm just not there yet. Practice for fun - I'll keep trying!



  2. It does get easier, but there's a learning curve for everything, including joy!