Yesterday was filled with so much delight. This year’s Connect DC summer solstice ritual will henceforth be known as the laughing ritual. That is what happens when you invoke both Coyote and Hotei, the laughing Buddha. My cheeks were already aching from the London bridges falling down grounding, the hokey pokey circle casting, and the nursery rhyme calling of the elements. By the time we got to the laughing yoga meditation and later the coyote dance throw down, oh my goodness, several of us were holding our bellies as our grins stretched all the way back to our ears. It was glorious!
But this morning I woke up tired.
So after stumbling through the morning service to the feline deities, I reluctantly rolled out the yoga mat. I was convinced that it would be near impossible to squeeze in more than three salutations. Heck I thought as I settled down to chant the invocation, I will be lucky to do one.
So as I started my sixth (!) salutation, I felt such gratitude to my yoga teachers. All these years of stumbling into yoga class, holding on to hope when my muscles seized and joints ached, all those blessed props and adjustments to help those muscles and joints, and here I am joyfully completing six salutes … on a Monday … after a public ritual … when I would have rather slept till noon. Wow.
As I laid down for savasana, I remembered how even the thought of yoga use to frighten me. I had thought that yoga was all about those incredible poses you always saw on book and video covers. I thought yoga was for the fit, the flexible, and the strong. I thought yoga was for slim people who ate nothing but petals, seeds and fragrant rice. I thought that yoga was out of the question for a fat, sick, stiff jointed old reprobate like myself. I was so incredibly wrong.
Yoga is so much more than poses, it is a system of philosophy, a worldview – some would call it a spiritual journey. I read at some point that all the poses are about teaching you how to breathe. Most folks who feel good after a yoga practice do so because they finally got all the oxygen they needed.
But what about those poses?
There is no requirement, at least in Anusara yoga, that you attain the “perfect” pose. What you aim for is your pose, your own variant that expresses the ideal of the pose in your body. But it is not just a game of improvisation. Your pose consists of applying the principles of yoga to the unique abilities and capacities of your body. And the principles, although you can read about them in a book or listen to them on recorded media, are best learned at the hands of an experienced teacher.
A yoga teacher can help you attain your pose by teaching the principles, demonstrating the poses, and illustrating adjustments and props, but more importantly by adjusting your pose. And this is crucial. As I said above, your pose is found by applying the yoga principles to your body. So a good teacher will help you to examine your edges and respect your limits. It is only in this container of self-examination and self-respect that your pose can be defined.
It is a lot like life.
I have had such incredible teachers throughout my life. They have demonstrated the principles of vocation, self-sacrifice, joy filled living, devotion, continuous study, delayed gratification, self care, gratitude, right livelihood, leadership, humility, service, discipline, independence, interdependence, compassion, tough love, resilience, ambition, recognition, and confidence amongst many other gifts. My teachers have illustrated how to move toward these principles by taking one step after another. And they, like my yoga teachers, offered me the assistance I needed to examine my edges and respect my limits so I could discover how each of these fundamental ideals expressed itself in my life … on my journey.
And so this morning I am filled with gratitude. To all my teachers and to all my students who teach me as well, thank you. Today, this very morning, I am grateful for finding my pose.