The modern, westernized approach to yoga focuses so much on fitness, especially in perfect body-obsessed Los Angeles. People are in a hurry to achieve specific goals, like losing ten pounds. They compare themselves to other people in classes, and become discouraged if they can’t “do” poses, or can’t do them “as well as that guy over there”.
I wish more people understood that yoga opens up an ongoing journey, a partnership of mind and body that can achieve weight loss, improve physique, create mental focus and calm… but it’s a longer, subtler process. The benefits tend to sneak up on you suddenly: friends think you look taller, jeans are looser, your reaction to problems is smoother.
Remember, just showing up is what’s important; each individual’s experience is profoundly unique. By virtue of getting on the mat and learning something about your body, you’re already a success.
Not every body was meant to do every pose. You may experience limitations due to your build, injury, age, even emotional issues. Yes! The body stores its own “secret pockets” of emotional psyche, locking up certain parts of itself in stiffness and pain. This is why we sometimes see people weep when experiencing physical release on the mat.
For example, I have a very slender, long neck. The delicate, upper vertebrae in my neck cannot handle doing headstand for long periods of time. How do I deal with this? I DON’T DO HEADSTAND FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME.
Stop focusing on what you “can’t” do. Notice the other ways your body has gracefully improved. Does your spine naturally want to stay nice and long? Have you eliminated back pain? Are you less anxious? These are all things I noticed in my yoga practice once I stopped “looking at the guy over there.”
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