The Love of My Life paraphrases the Philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius by asking himself “What is the essence of the matter?” for any given situation or problem presented. (A habit I seem to be acquiring.) Here’s a story of how I gave up my quest for perfection in one small area of my life when I discovered the essence of what I wanted to accomplish.
For years I took yoga classes. All types of yoga. Looking back I see how often I found them stressful. (Even if I didn’t want to go, or wanted to stop, I continued because as “everyone knows, yoga is good for you.” At the time I also believed continuing everything I started very important.)
There always appeared to be the “right” way to do the posture and, depending on who taught the class, there may have been disparaging remarks to those who didn’t comply. (If I witnessed and/or experienced such rudeness I’d always notify the studio owner and never take that person’s class again.) To get me into the “right” position, there were instructors who’d “help” my body. Occasionally helpful, yes. Also occasionally painful.
The classes were always on someone else’s schedule, plus the instructor got to decide what they taught that day.
What I found missing from the classes was having instructors explain how a particular posture could benefit me. It also would have been extremely helpful to be reminded and encouraged to listen to my body (always!), to take things slow (particularly in the beginning, after a prolonged absence or following an injury), figure out what felt good, what didn’t, what worked for me. And if I couldn’t get into a particular posture, offer me an alternate.
This is not a slam toward yoga instructors. As I said, I took classes for years. It’s just now I have some perspective so I can answer the question — for myself — as to what the essence of the matter is. For me doing yoga is neither about acquiring a “perfect yoga body,” nor becoming a proficient yogi (or instructor). The essence what I want from yoga is to get my body moving. To keep various aches and pains of the muscular-skeletal nature at bay or at least down to a dull roar. (The ability to practice yoga in limited spaces is a wonderful bonus.) I now realize that for me yoga is not a lifestyle, it is simply a tool.
Having learned enough to be able to follow you-tube videos, books, articles I’ve collected over the years (and even apps), I can patchwork yoga in a way that works for me. I mix and match yoga styles. I do yoga any time, day or night (always varying the duration depending on my “needs,” or “mood”). I’ve done yoga in parks, parking lots, and rest stops, on the beach, on boats, in hotel rooms and even bathrooms.
That I’ve learned to pick and choose from all those sources what I need right then and there (on any given day), is best for me. I now listen to my body. I may not do the postures “perfectly,” but I’m doing them. I’m moving. And that’s really the essence of what I need. The movement. Not the perfection.
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