I was just chatting with a woman who works in my office and who also does yoga.
How’s that for a boring lead? Stick with me for a second, though.
She had heard that last weekend’s Los Angeles-based yoga festival, Tadasana, was pretty good. One of her teachers was singing its praises and said that she (the teacher) had gone out of her way to try different types of yoga during the festival.
“I’m sure it was great,” I responded, or something to that effect. “And normally I’m all for trying out different things.
“But,” I went on, “there are two things that keep me away from festivals like that.
“One is the earnest, love everything and everything will be OK-vibe. I just can’t handle it. It’s too serious.”
It was the second reason, though, that was for me the shocker. I’m not entirely sure where it came from or why it came out in that moment.
“But the other reasons is that with my body as stiff and limited as it is, it helps to know what’s coming, what’s in the sequence,” I said. “Even if I can’t do the full pose, I know which modification I can do.”
“Yeah,” my office mate agreed. “No surprises. OK, do this pose now.”
I’m sitting here now trying to ponder what this means, especially given my (apparently cult-Ashtanga perspective) notion of yoga as tapasya, as something that should hurt. It certainly is something that should push you to and beyond limits — that’s how I find, at least, an avenue to breaking down our samskaras. (It’s also why I don’t find other forms of yoga to be as useful; I understand and appreciate that they work for other people, but for me “opening my heart” or “opening to grace” does not get rid of the Halahala.)
But if I’m looking to wring myself out like a dirty dish rag, shouldn’t I be putting myself into more uncomfortable situations? Or would that lose the necessary sukha of the practice? Am I right that Ashtanga, with its known limits — when and where I can get right to the edge and perhaps briefly over it — is “sthira sukham asanam.”
Or is it just the stiff coward’s way out?
Posted by Steve