While practicing yoga have you ever asked this question? Or thought some version of it?
“Where should I be feeling this?”
“What is the purpose of this pose?”
Through my years teaching yoga I watch as people try to attain something on the outside, heck I’ve even tried to help them “take it further” toward their desired perfection. But the more I teach and the more I practice, the more I realize that yoga is not about outward perfection but maybe awareness of the lack of it. Yet I am asked over and over again questions like, “should my shin be parallel to the mat in pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana)?”
What do you think?
Looking at the asana you could say that someone with tight hips might not be able to get their shin parallel. Great. I agree. Then we could take it further and discuss the bones (femur and acetabulum) and how they play a part in the ability for the hip/leg to externally rotate. Alright, two things can have an effect on this pose: (1) Flexibility of the muscles and (2) Structure of the bones.
Now, with this understanding of the anatomy/physiology we can all understand that our expressions of poses will be different based on the fact that our bodies are all unique and different. Right? No. What? No?
Hold up!! If our bodies are all different, then why are we all trying to look the same in a pose? Why are we trying to get to this “perfect pose”? And what happens when we try to attain it?
My opinion – the desire for a perfect pose seems to be a symbol of the perfection we want to achieve in our lives. Yogis have become an archetype in our society, being portrayed as calm, loving, flexible, strong, wise and sometimes mystical people. So, if you can do a perfect pigeon… or rock-a-kakasana… well, you must be a perfect yogi and therefore embody all of the stereotypes that go along with that. But, if we are trying to attain something that our bodies physically can’t do… whose body are we actually practicing with? Sure, it’s our “physical bodies” that are being tortured and twisted into asana… but we are practicing as though we are someone else. And when we do this, when we try to be someone else in our yoga practice, not only is it not yoga (yoga in some schools is translated as union of the self with the higher self – and if we are not even acknowledging the “self”, but some desired other person… well… there is clearly no union going on), but we are also, and very importantly, exposing our bodies to potential injury.
Matthew Remski, writer, therapist and yoga teacher writes that, “some people might be getting hurt in yoga because they are practicing in the bodies they fantasize about, instead of the bodies they actually have.” Amen!
What happens when we work with the bodies we do have?
What happens when we work within our limitations and embrace them instead of judge them?
What happens when we stop the onslaught of self-blaming and self-loathing for not being perfect?
What happens when we practice with freedom from ideas of perfection?
What happens when we embrace the difference within our bodies? When we care for and nurture, instead of torture, our bodies?
What happens? Yoga.
And what do we achieve? Our own beautiful expression of perfection – because it’s perfect for us.
“WAWADIA Update #14: Practicing Yoga in the “False Body”” – http://matthewremski.com