In striving for perfection in an Asana (posture) based Yoga practice, we are at best setting ourselves up for disappointment, at worst setting ourselves up for injury. Every human body is different. Every person comes to their Yoga practice with a unique history etched into their physicality, presenting as a particular range of motion and degree of strength. Often, though the postures of Yoga are presented as a universally beneficial prescription, each one having its ‘ideal’ expression each of us should strive for. Even when the teacher offers variations of each pose, and encourages their students to find their own expression, there is still an underlying implication of a hierarchy of experience. Somehow legs straight and heels on the floor in Downward Dog is better or more advanced than knees bent and heels up. The unspoken promise is that if you keep at it (or advance in your practice) then of course one day your heels will touch the floor. This promise of progression is one of the biggest traps we set for ourselves in practice. The truth is; maybe one day your heels will touch the floor, or maybe they won’t. Buried deep within the implication of advancement is the heart of the problem: we tend to approach our lives as fixer-uppers, rather than simply living the lives we’ve been given to live. We are disappointed with what we have now, so we strive to morph it into an imagined ideal through force and struggle. The teacher Max Strom has seen this often, and describes the condition as ‘anywhere but here’.
In the carnival of our practice, as we spin in circles on the merry-go-round of our postures, we reach a little further for the golden ring with each pass, but with each pass it gets a little further away. As a teacher, I’ve watched for 10 years as red-faced students (including myself) push, and grimace, and groan their way through their postures, seeking the promise of that magic moment when the ring will be grasped and all will be revealed. Plain and simple, this merry-go-round (in Buddhist terms known as Samsara, or the wheel of causation) will never stop spinning. It is true that we need to ride it for a certain amount of time to see the truth of it. But, once you are free to step off the ride you are free to experience each pose from a vast and objective space. A non-dualistic space that doesn’t hold one experience up to another for comparison, but instead allows for the utterly unique perfection of each moment (or each pose) to be experienced in its full richness, exactly as it is – releasing it when it’s over.
By its very existence, each moment is already perfect – no matter what we think, wish or believe; if it wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t be there.
TODAY’S PRACTICE: step to the side of striving, and meet each moment (on or off the mat) exactly as it arises and passes, basking in the warmth of this constantly changing and ever-present experience of perfection.
Cameron Gilley has been teaching yoga for over 8 years and has a vested interest in yogic philosophy. He is a faculty member of Semperviva Yoga College, and will be greatly involved in the 200 Hour Full Time Yoga Teacher Training in Vancouver this summer. Cameron draws from his deep well of esoteric knowledge and endeavors to communicate it in an open and expressive manner.
Check him out at camerongilley.com