After six months of regular practice, I’m experiencing the real joy of yoga.
Okay. Wow. It’s hard for me to write a sentence like that like without irony, but it’s not excruciating as it once would have been. As the person whose eyes would roll with every “om,” who after more than 10 years of attending classes still can’t finish with a “namaste” (I just…no) — let’s consider this a small breakthrough.
I’ve been taking a long time to think about this post because in some ways it actually gets to the meat of the blog’s purpose. As an exercise in being positive and pure and not so damn judgemental all the time. Stop being afraid that gentleness will loosen my grip on reality. I want to catch myself starting to give in to impulses that limit my ability to experience or feel something new and say, “I defy you impulses!” And then write something like: “I’m experiencing the real joy of yoga.” Okay then.
Although cynicisms persists, and my tolerance for yoga teachers as spiritual gurus and pop-psychologists remains fairly low, as some of the physical components have demystified I find myself becoming more curious and thoughtful of certain esoteric aspects of yoga. I feel powerful and light in crow pose. I achieve quiet moments in a long-held Virabhadrasana III. Continue to understand and move beyond my fear of upsidedownness. At the moment, what eludes me is dedication.
“Sometimes at the beginning of class, the teacher invites us to dedicate our practice. It’s a powerful invitation because it can essentially means that every asana, every breath, is in reverence to this person or thing for which we feel a deep sense of gratitude.”
Unclear how else to handle it, I’ve traditionally dedicated my practice to myself (like: be gentle to myself! I’m worth it!), or more often to the opportunity to cultivate a particular quality like forgiveness or determination or patience. But I think of the latter more as an “intention”(setting one at the beginning of class is also something that teachers routinely encourage). Intentions are very helpful for me as a destination to return to when the body and mind start to slide apart. It’s the idea of dedicating my own experience of yoga to another living thing that gives me the “hmmm”s.
I have attempted it in the past, without any clear motivation or understanding of how or why. In the year and a half that my dog Goose was sick with congestive heart failure, I’d occasionally dedicate a practice to him. More recently, I’ve thought of a friend who’s trapped in a toxic situation at work. But again, I wasn’t quite sure of the purpose or maybe more importantly, whether I could buy into the idea at all. It struck me as some self-important yoga bullshit at worst, and at best, hopelessly new-agey. But then why the impulse “dedicate” a practice to a sick poodle who I loved so much? Or an upset friend? Or an associate who has been giving me difficulty? What gives this meaning? Softening to the idea of dedication, the question repeats and repeats through my mind.
Finding an “answer” seems wrong — but I find myself inspired in the search of opinions and understanding through random streams of consciousness. Lately I’ve been thinking about this idea that maybe dedicating a practice is similar to dedicating a piece of art. I’ll ask myself — what’s the difference between dedicating a song or a painting or a story and dedicating a 30 or 60 or 90 minutes of yoga? Well, there’s a physical component to art that makes the idea more tangible to me: an artist makes a physical contribution to the world. What exactly are we dedicating in yoga? What is that contribution? Does it come back around to some intention? Or is this all a bunch of garbage after all?
I’m learning how challenging yoga really can be for both body and mind. Now again with the joy. When I say joy I don’t mean that it’s some kind of pure happiness, although pure and happy is part of it, but I mean that feeling of feeling all the feelings. This stirs something in me. I feel different, but it’s also familiar. Some kind of innocence and freedom that I used to know.
Nama….Eh. Still no.