When I was a dancer I heard over and over again that I should “Dance through the pain.” Not the pain of an injury, but the discomfort that comes with stretching to the limit, or reaching your edge. I remember learning to do a split. I was so determined! Every day I pushed myself a little farther, just to the threshold of pain and held it until I finally got all the way down. I was focused on getting the split, but at the same time, I knew that the improvement in strength and flexibility in my legs would make me a better dancer. At the time, that was what I wanted.
When I first started practicing yoga I wanted to be good at it, just like dancing. I was so determined to push myself to get the poses. I watched yoga sequences on DVDs and on the internet and thought, “I really want to be able to do that,” and then tried to force myself into the poses. I wanted to go further in my practice and get more and more poses. This was good, since at that time I had been pretty sedentary and anything that was going to get me moving was an improvement.
After a while, I realized that I wanted more of a relationship with yoga. Doing the poses just wasn’t enough for me anymore. This was when I started my personal practice.
This has been what I will call an off and on relationship, as I find it difficult to practice in my home. I resolved to attend a class every day and have generally kept this up until recently.
I am okay with that. I realized just this past weekend, when I didn’t go to a yoga class that I really practice as a practice now. I am no longer practicing out of obligation through sheer willpower. So it’s okay if I don’t do a physical practice every day. My yoga practice, like my life, will go through stages. Some stages will be very busy and full of activity and others will be more relaxed and restful.
One thing that made me sad when I had this realization was that I had wasted so much of my yoga time chasing poses. Then I realized that this was all right, too. That was part of my journey. That is what got me to yoga classes and had me practicing on a regular basis.
Some days I want to work hard, others I don’t. Some days I resist everything that is good for me and other days I open my heart to it. There are edges everywhere you look if you look for them. Finding that edge, and playing it is what will bring about the breakthrough and understanding.
My practice of yoga now is not about achieving poses or going to a class every day, although these things in and of themselves are good. My current practice of yoga is about learning to accept myself on the journey to that pose or through that class. Some of the journey will include resting and reflecting. Sometimes even the strongest need a child’s pose.