Yoga Poses Get You in the Door – Once You’re Inside There’s a Whole Lot More than You Bargained For
When I first started practicing yoga, I was all about the poses. I mean, of course, right? I was 18 and obsessed with losing weight.
I’m honestly not sure what else I even could have been focused on at that point, to tell you the truth.
For the first several (okay, more like 10) years of my practice, I really, really wanted to achieve new poses. I wanted Wheel in my wheelhouse something bad.
And when I got it?
I felt super excited while I was in the pose.
But then I came out of it.
And besides wishing there was someone there to give me a gold star, nothing else really changed.
I didn’t feel more “yogic.” In fact, if anything, all I felt was smug. “See, I knew I could do it.”
Of course, I didn’t see it that way for quite a bit. I mean, I knew my life didn’t transform overnight into the yoga bliss I’d been hoping for. But still—that had to be right around the corner, right?
Over time though, I began to see that this pattern never changed. I “got” a new pose; I patted myself on the shoulder (perhaps a bit too vigorously sometimes); I looked around for someone else to join in.
Most of the time, that didn’t happen.
But when it did, like in a yoga class, I felt myself get all puffed up inside. “My teacher recognized me! I am amazing! It’s only a matter of time until I’m the best person who has ever done yoga in the entire history of the whole world!”
Something told me, though, that that probably wasn’t the point of yoga.
I think this happens for lots of people—at least lots of human people who I know. The asanas, or yoga poses, are what get us in the door of yoga—and they’re often what keep us there for quite awhile.
But at a certain point, something shifted for me. I reminded myself that nothing ever really changed in my life (at least not for the better) when a new pose became available for me.
But what did change my life for the better was becoming less reliant on external validation—even from inside my own head, congratulating myself on a pose well done.
What did change my life was shifting the focus of my yoga practice from external achievement to asking myself what I most need in any given moment, and then meeting that need. Quieting down and listening within—whether that’s in Wheel or Savasana (usually the latter, these days).
If I never did Wheel again, I know I’d be fine. But I hope to continue growing my ability to listen to my body through whatever poses and moments are available to me—even when it’s hard.
Because that, to me, is yoga. (And I also hope my definition will continue to shift and expand over time, as it has so far.)
When students are struggling with poses, trying to do the “full” (fanciest) version of a pose, I often tell them that there’s nothing special that happens when you actually achieve that “perfect” form. You don’t become enlightened when your head touches your knee in a forward bend or you do wheel with straight arms. Would that it were that easy.
Haha — yes, it would be great if it was that easy. 🙂
Thanks for sharing that, Charlotte!
Such a breath of fresh air.