Yoga is honest. You cannot, past a certain superficial level, fake it. It is literal, experience, fact: I know of few other contexts in the world in which what you say or think or desire is so patently irrelevant compared to what you do. Of course, yoga then becomes a kind of exaggeration of what is always true, a place where the difficult to see and accept becomes obvious. It is difficult, usually, to believe aphorisms and truisms and philosophies; we give them a passing nod as having a point, but not being practical or real.
Yoga is literal, if not brutal and simple. You are alone there on the mat. There will never be a graduation or a test after class, a stamp you get or a certificate that says you can move on to the next level.
This is precisely what makes a yoga practice hard. You cannot fake it. You cannot do yoga unless you show up. You cannot intend to do it, say you’ll do it, or desire to do it to any effect; you can only do or not do. You cannot will yourself into a backbend, or walk into a class one day and decide to flip up into a handstand. You can’t fake flexibility or pretend strength. You are faced, immediately, with the limitations of what you’ve got.
I think this is gorgeous. Of course, it is possible to be frustrated, ashamed, beat ourselves up and compare ourselves to our younger selves or the svelte olympian on the cover of yoga journal magazine. It is entirely possible to see the core teachings of yoga (nothing is permanent, all is illusion, limits are human) as pessimism.
I don’t. Not today.
Because I’ve learned that limits clearly define me and give me reality. We don’t get much reality in daily life. Not with advertisements and those empty spiritual teachings, change your life and self help books around. Not with this brain that ticks ticks ticks its way to expectations of grandeur or complete defeat.
Reality, when I finally found it on the mat, is comforting.
Because one actual dollar – hell, one actual dime – is infinitely more precious than are billions of hoped for ones.
The body and breath I do have are infinitely more powerful than the wispy, elusive, daydreamed body that is not.
The limits I sound out, challenge, and expand are beautiful.