Periodically I have a bit of a yoga crisis. I wonder quite seriously whether I’m any good at it at all. Not in the impossibly bendy kind of way; I’ve never especially aspired to that (though obvs I’m not immune to craving certain poses). Rather I become so acutely aware of the critical voices in my head and they shout at me so convincingly. Right now they’re telling me that if they are so alive and well after a few years of committed practice, then I must be really bad at yoga. Simply not cut out for it at all. If I were any good, I’d either be able to do a handstand or I’d be a whole lot more serene about not being able to, more serene about the whole yoga deal. I wouldn’t still be witness to such self mental abuse; I’d have nailed the voices into silence even if I hadn’t nailed the handstand.
In my heart I know all this is absurd. Actually the fact that I can hear these voices and (mostly) manage to continue to practise even against their noisy backdrop suggests that I’m both more aware and less reactive than I used to be. And these are good yoga accomplishments I think. Bravo me!
But still the voices persist. And Hubby, usually a staunch ally, gets frustrated with me. “If class is too difficult for you, why don’t you just practise gently at home on your own?” Wait, I didn’t say class is too difficult for me. Challenging yes, and often very confronting, but this isn’t necessarily bad is it? I’m not drawn to easy things, I never take the easy route. I speak my mind even when others just say ‘yes’ to anything, I do stuff even when I’m sh*t scared, I look beyond the status quo. I’m a classic younger sibling who doesn’t want to be left behind quietly with mummy. I want to be out there with the tough boys, holding my own — actually, more than holding my own.
Somewhere there’s a balance between this striving mentality, this being so hard on myself, and the graceful effortless-effort that I hear whispering to me in my practice. It’s abhyasa and vairagya, it’s sthira and sukha, it’s the tenuous balancing act of yoga, the union of opposites. Yin, yang. Self, non-self. Effort, ease. Practice, patience. Discipline, surrender. Teacher, student. Endless antonyms. As endless as the inhales and exhales.
So what will I do?
I can’t pack it in. I’m on a path. I’m moving along even if I’m carrying a lot of baggage still. So I’ll go on offering my humble practice, with some sliver of faith — in myself, in the process. I don’t feel I have a choice. I try to rationalise it: the act of waking up is often difficult, so much reluctance and inertia to overcome — and I’ve been deeply asleep for quite some time! And as much as my mind tortures me during yoga, some other part of me feels a subtle shift and a loosening. That’s where I rest my small faith, on that chink of light, that narrow opening that might just contain infinite possibilities.