“Poets have never used the word balance, for good reason. First of all, it is too obvious and therefore untrustworthy; it is also a deadly boring concept and seems to speak as much to being stuck and immovable, as much as to harmony. There is also the sense of unbalancing that must take place in order to push a person into a new and larger set of circumstances.” ~ David Whyte
Yoga is full of big words. Words like balance, and bliss, and peace, and love saturate the market of the yoga industry. We are asked to ‘open our hearts’, ‘finder our inner peace’, and blissfully let go into the vastness of this potential freedom. While we are yearning and perhaps hopeful of these tags lines, many of us spend our first yoga experience trying to simply decipher our left hand from our right hand and wondering if our agitated minds are actually insane. These big words that lure us in to studios or coax us into buying that $200 mala that was blessed by a monk have brought more and more people to this practice. This, I believe, is not a bad thing; bringing more people to yoga. No matter how people arrive, if they choose to stay with yoga, they will find their own reasons to keep coming back.
While these big words that get tossed around are exciting (who doesn’t want a life full of bliss and harmony?), we must not get stuck on them and harden our understanding of what they mean. Any overused word becomes untrustworthy and to expect that any of these ‘perfected’ states of mind and body take less than a life time to attain might end in disappointment.
I am just meaning that when we repeatedly use and strive for the glossy words echoing through the yoga world, we risk idealizing them as an airbrushed version of impossibility. Not only do we become numb to the complexities of these beautiful words, during those times when we are not feeling the love and at peace with birds singing delightfully over our head, then we might feel we are failing. It is not uncommon for us to fall into our own traps spun from our warped idea of perfection.
Many writers, thinkers and realists speak of the impossibility of perfection but Elizabeth Gilbert puts it simply: Perfection is "a myth and a trap and a hamster wheel that will run you to death.”
We should remember here that yoga isn’t something we can fail. We are reminded throughout the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, that this a progressive and moderate path. It doesn’t promise anything. Unfortunately. It doesn’t promise you that you will always have inner peace or mental harmony. Yes, Patanjali says that there is this great freedom that can come from this path, but we are told again and again and again that this freedom comes by dedicated and continued practice.
Practice is the instruction and the hope to all the glittery marketing of the yoga industry. Yoga is a living practice and it is also my effort at branding this site and myself as a teacher. So, I must break this down too. Here’s one thing the dictionary says about practice: “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.” We can start with this, but our own definition of practice should evolve over the course of our life just like our understanding of language. The same as we must break apart the words that lure us to this spiritual path, we must break down our fixed ideas of what it means to practice yoga and only then might we grow and encounter our own version of peace.