“Man, I wish I started yoga when I was fourteen years old!” We’ve all said some version of this. It would just be soo much easier. The binds, the backbends, the will power. Physically, yes this is true. Your body learns and heals faster when you’re a teen. But what would you have been able to use your physical practice for? How would it have changed your behavior if everything just came naturally?
In our summer philosophy course, my teacher David Garrigues said that the older you get, the more opportunity for suffering you have. WHAT?!
Yes! More opportunity for obstacles because facing, observing, and possibly overcoming them means growing as an individual. Challenges force you to question who you are, your purpose and what you want out of this slice of the universe.
Hey, even if you had started yoga at fourteen there would STILL be challenges. Frankly, I would argue that it would be beneficial to study a different discipline so that could learn something exciting and new rather than leaning into your strengths.
Sri Swami Satchidananda writes in his translation of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through…We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities…If a river just flows easily, the water does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength in the form of tremendous electrical power” (2012, p. 48).
It’s true. Daily practice requires physical expressions and a quiet mind. This helps us better understand who we are beyond the mind chatter and physical projections. Our attitude and expectations impact our experience. Opportunities often yield gratitude. Thanks for the chance or the experience. If we look at these physical challenges as negative then we’ll never truly understand what we may learn. It is our choice how we experience the world. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that enthusiasm and perseverance are basic requirements for success in yoga. Treating each practice as brand new, listening for the lessons.
When presented with a challenge you can grimace, push through pain, quit altogether OR you can learn the mechanics of your anatomy, test your physical limitations and accept them graciously for what they CAN do. You can also listen to what goes on in your mind. You could berate yourself, identify with your body as your entire being OR you could enthusiastically listen to your body’s direction and compassionately watch what passes through your mind.
The choice is yours! I am so very grateful for these countless DAILY lessons (even though I sometimes forget and have an internal tantrum.)