When teaching yoga I often emphasize that what we can or cannot do with our bodies does not measure the kind of person that we are. I believe this to be true. However, this does not take away from the paradoxical truth that what we can and cannot do in our bodies is important. Wrestling within this paradox is one of many doorways that open our awareness more expansively into our experience of self.
So much of our experience of self, on and off the mat, is wrestling with paradox. The bittersweet flavor of loosing someone you love comes to mind as one of the most challenging. In the wake of such losses we wonder how valuable it is to love at all and yet we would not hurt so deeply if we had not. With time and patience we have the opportunity to come to the same conclusion as Alfred Lord Tennyson where we realize “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
As far as I know there is no snappy quote to throw down which summarizes this elaborate unfolding that takes place in the realm of paradox and the discovery of self through a committed yoga practice. If there were, Google and I would have just uncovered it. Perhaps there is no witty quip to drop because the journey is one that must be taken on ones own. This is why it does matter what we do and do not do on our mats. Not because touching our toes is really all that important, but because the journey to getting there is so very revealing. In the process of attempting to open and strengthen we uncover the aspects of our selves that limit and push, surrender and force, let go and hold fast. All valuable aspects of character which each have a time and place for garnering more strength or creating more space. The process is learning to listen and then learning to respond accordingly. Through this dance we can play the roll of the wise fool, again another paradox to wrestle with.
Yet it is the committed return to the mat, which reveals the progress. Of course progress can be measured in the distance between our hands and the floor in a forward fold, the length which with we can sustain a handstand, the depth of our backbends, and in many ways this measure is of great value. Other measures are how well we sit with the paradox, how easily we allow ourselves to patiently proceed to our desired goal, how willingly we surrender when we find that we are not in control. So with that, tis better to have tried to handstand and fallen than to never have tried at all.
With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving,
Photo Credit: Zoe Zimmerman for Sundara Studios 2015