Yoga

I am not in love with the muscle of yoga
though I find it beautiful
the vitality pushed forth through daily dedication
bodies growing stronger, enduring longer
circling tightly, moving steadily
it is their form of beginning

I am not in love with the ritual of yoga
though I find it comforting
my ego and my truth desire no more repetition
than raising my arms to the sun
however many times it rises
my exhalation of silence the only chant
I need to focus

I am only in love with the invisibility of yoga
the magic building through vein,
tissue and breath
the awareness that lifts up, out, and deeply
inside of both body and neither mind
that becomes the union and dissolution
of what has never been but always will be
accessible, eternal, aware

I am in love with the meditation that is yoga
the letting go that holds on
even when the practice has passed.

The Journey is the Destination

Three years ago, I started a blog. Revelation time: “Written by Ay” isn’t my first.

*gasp*

That first, well, the blog to which I’m referring, was titled “Married with a Degree” and did not last through the year it began. You can search, but that old blog lives no longer. (Great title through, right?) My sense of discipline in posting rather lacked, and I becoming increasingly irritated with the theme hole I’d dug myself. The writing embarrassed me, I lacked the confidence to make it more than it was, so I deleted it and stepped away from the blogosphere.

Lately though, a post from that blog keeps coming to mind, written by my direly introspective self about practice. At the time I’d realized the skill  I’d yet to learn, that I needed most to focus in this new stage of life, required practicing practicing. I had little practice in the art of practicing growing up. Things came easy to me (English, friendships) or they didn’t (Chemistry, running). If it wasn’t easy, I’d give up. Maybe I wouldn’t drop the class or sport, but my lack of confidence would force a mental resignation. Or, in the case of writing, I’d quite before ever getting started.

This seemed like a huge epiphany at the time, and I proudly wrote and wrote and practiced practicing, for a while. But here I am, years later, delving further into Yoga, into Buddhism, into myself, and the idea of practice stands up front and center.

Practice, and all is coming. –Rumi

The need and concept of practice is still true, and still holds weight. In fact, the idea has held weight for thousands of years in Yoga. They don’t call it a “Yoga practice” for nothing. One never does Yoga, because no one can perfectly perform each and every pose. There is always room for improvement, more to learn, physically and mentally.  And that’s what is so wonderful about the practice, that’s what pulls me into Yoga, and keeps me from giving up. Just a few days ago while beginning the Yoga Sutras translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda, “practice” featured in the very first sutra:

We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.

I look back at that old blog post, and smile.

The lesson here is in the journey, in honoring our past, younger selves. So often we want to laugh or ridicule who we were, how stupid we acted, how naive believed. But we can’t deny that whatever we believed in at the time, we lived. We walked that path. Those steps, however mistaken, however clumsy, brought us to ourselves today. To now. Here. To the person regretting those detours and laughing at our own ignorance.

For me, this remembrance was a kind of validation. I didn’t lose the path, and while I may have forgotten, I was working toward these ideas I now value so highly before I really realized it. I was on my way, pulling more pieces of the puzzle from the pile, setting them out for later. Now, I can begin putting those pieces together.

Well, maybe a few,

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Why I’m Okay with the #yogaselfie

This year introduced me to the #yogaselfie, as well as the controversy surrounding the latest trend in our “selfie” culture. Are the photos and videos of twisty arms, legs, and beach bodies (that seem to be flooding every social media) taking away from the purposeful image of yoga, and replacing it with more ego and narcissism, as well as an unreachable ideal for the rest of us?

I’ve wondered about this for some time, debating on posting poses during my increasing interest developed over the past year. For the first time since that first downward dog in high school on my parents’ kitchen floor, I enrolled in a yoga class. For the first time since my senior year of college, I’ve practiced daily for more than a month at a time. And, for the first time ever, I’ve connected with other fans of yoga.

Social media, especially Instagram, is what I consider the “main hub” for yogis and yoginis. I have one or two in-person friends who will occasionally discuss yoga with me, but everyday I can go on Instagram and like a photo, see #yogachallenges, and become inspired by the variety of shapes, sizes, and types of people molding into their asanas.

My perception of the community is certainly created by my own experience. The first Instagram challenge I participated in was created by @yoga_girl Rachel Brathen, who focused on all the other aspects of yoga, not just the poses. The Yoga Girl Challenge created space for self-reflection, for forgiveness, for creating good habits and good energy. Participant’s posts reflected the goal of the day, not the pose they held the longest in their daily asana practice.

Currently, I’m participating in the #beSTRONGin2015 yoga challenge. This Instagram challenge does feature some kind of giveaway at the end of the week, that I believe is nice but not necessary (or remembered). We do focus on the poses, and posting those poses every day. Of course, “we” are not all perfectly fit, extremely flexible people. The “explore option” on Instagram, or following the challenge’s hashtag shows just how many other regular people are getting into a headstand for the first time. I’d also like to point out the intention behind this challenge: growing stronger (it’s in the name), and deepening yoga practice. Leading the challenge are @kinoyoga, Kino, and @beachyogagirl, Kerri, who focus on teaching the poses correctly, on the reason behind the pose, and all the things yoga is suppose to be about.

For those not familiar, Yoga was created as a way to strengthen the body for the act of meditation, even helping the mind to connect more with the body and the Self through motion, which is my favorite aspect of the practice. On days I cannot focus my mind on only my breath, a quick practice allows a following meditation to become that much easier.

For me, posting my imperfect poses and baby triumphs is terribly liberating. The daily posts hold me accountable to get on the mat “#everydamnday” and encourage me to try poses I’ve never tried before, let alone imagined I could do. Certainly, there’s some ego behind it, but there’s more self-realization, deeper focus. I can feel my body becoming stronger already.

I guess my decision to post my own yoga selfies is very much in line with Alexandra Crow’s article on Yoga Journal: I’m contributing to the image of real yoga practice. Imperfect, flawed, real. Yoga selfies that do this, that show men and women, of all body types, of all abilities and backgrounds, open the practice of yoga to everyone.

And that’s the whole idea.