Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Beauty of Imperfection

"It's yoga practice, not yoga perfect." This is a phrase that I've heard from teachers numerous times, and it really hits home. There is no conceivable way we could achieve complete perfection in class or even in an individual posture.

A comparison I like to draw is with music, and rock music in particular. If you listen to any band perform live, you'll hear all kinds of minor errors, whether it's the rhythm speeding up or slowing down slightly, wrong notes, or instruments going out of tune. In it's extreme, this would be terrible, and the song wouldn't even be recognizable. But assuming the basic structure of the song is intact, the various errors actually add to the enjoyment and experience. What your witnessing is life, and real living breathing human beings, and that's what makes art (and yoga) work.

Frankly, yoga wouldn't even be yoga if the purpose was to do perfect postures, live a perfect life, have perfect concentration, etc. In a way, it's a gradient scale towards achieving more awareness of yourself and life. There is no ultimate goal, no perfect state to achieve. That's honestly a large part of the appeal for me. Yes, I'm pushed to improve my practice, but there's no impossible standard I'm trying to reach or an unattainable plateau. I just learn from the mistakes and try to do better next time, but the process is where the real gain for me comes from.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This Thing Called Life

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life." - Prince, from "Let's Go Crazy"

The teacher could begin every Bikram class with these words, and it would be totally applicable. For various reasons, I haven't been able to write as much in this blog over the past few months as I would prefer. I have no shortage of topics, but life has a way of throwing up all kinds of barriers and confusions. However, I've definitely been going to class, unfortunately not as much as I would like to.

As more and more strange things pop up in my life, the more I realize how valuable the non-physical benefits of the yoga are. The world is filled with traps and distractions and I've had my share of them of lately. There are numerous things in life that are tedious, irrelevant or just plain harmful. Daily existence can be a chore sometimes, work, bills, flakey people, you name it. In the larger scheme of things, practically none of that matters.

However, yoga does matter. It's not superficial or pretentious. You can count on it. Above all else, it's honest. It's truth. Sometimes that 90 minutes in the hot room is the only truth we'll get all day. Art and music have many of the same attributes, as there is plenty of truth in art as well. And it's something real, just like yoga. When you stand on your mat in that hot room, and look at your own eyes in the mirror, it's real. No illusions, no facade.

To be honest, lately I'd taken this gift for granted, I'd been doing it for so long. Oddly enough life can have a way of knocking you around and reminding you what's really important. Well life certainly reminded me lately and I'm truly grateful I always have the hot room to go to. If nothing else, at least I get truth in those 90 minutes, no matter what else goes on the rest of the day.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Enjoy the Process

Today before class I heard someone make a comment which I've heard many times before, including by some teachers. The comment is always something similar to, "Well I hate the class itself but it's worth it because I feel great afterwards." I happen to disagree with this line of thought and think it limits one's practice. Do I always enjoy the class when am in it? Of course not. Do I always look forward to class? Definitely not. However, for the most part, I do enjoy being in the hot room, doing the postures and yes - struggling.

Maybe it took me a while to realize it, but I am cognizant of the benefits of the yoga as I'm doing it, rather than just understanding the benefits to come later. I can feel the stretching, the detox, the meditation as it's happening and I enjoy it. If you just "grin and bear it" to get through the class than sorry to say, you're missing out on a lot. The class is often described as "a 90 minute open-eye moving meditation" which is spot-on. Part of that mediation is embracing the struggle and the difficulty and actually learning to appreciate it and enjoy it.

Perhaps that sounds a bit sadistic, as after all, why would anyone want to "torture" themselves for 90 minutes? But that's really the whole point. If you can embrace the torture chamber and accept it for what it is, you've really achieved something. If you continue to resist the heat, the humidity, the postures, etc, then you will continue to be adversely affected by it. The longer I practice Bikram Yoga, the more it becomes a mental exercise rather than a physical one, and as a result, I truly enjoy my 90 minutes in the room each day.