Why do we do Yoga? For each person who practices there is likely to be a different answer. I know why I went for the first class; my friend Katrina made me feel like I’d be missing something if I didn’t go. Why did I go back? I’m not sure exactly, except that it had to do with a feeling. In hindsight this feeling embodied a limitless sense of possibility and pure joy.
In the years since that first class, I’ve experienced many feelings, some that evoke that initial whiff of the infinite and others that run the gamut from elation to frustration. It is that first feeling, however, that lives in my bones and had hooked me from the start, sustaining me through my life on the mat.
Lately, a shift occurred on my mat in my approach to my practice. I’ve been almost distracted by “perfecting” my alignment, whatever that means, so that I may discover something previously hidden by habitual pattern. Deepening my practice on the physical level, so I might have the feeling of flight that some of the poses seem to promise, became my prime directive. This new feeling that is no less inspiring to my purpose, ironically, is happening during physical distress in my body that is imposing its own limitations.
Last week I was reacquainted with a part of myself I didn’t realize was lost. I went to Beth’s class; Beth, whose voice softly echoes the kernels of my better self. Her lilting tones reflect a love so deep I dare anyone not to be affected in her presence. Her authenticity and depth of feeling reached out from her heart and grabbed me by mine and shook it just enough to wake me up. I was jolted by a physical memory of that first feeling and smiled. I am grateful for every waking moment!
While alignment is essential to good form, progress and keeping the body safer from injury, it is only part of the picture. With practice, the alignment integrates itself and becomes as effortless as the breathing we do on the mat. Tapping beginner’s mind with every breath brings mindfulness to the otherwise second nature intuition of the body.
I have found that seeking out different voices born from different experiences on the mat, creates a wholeness in my practice that keeps me fresh. I don’t have to choose alignment over the spirit of the practice; they are each part of the same whole and to be honored with intention and integrity.
If, on your journey, you catch a bit of that feeling, don’t trade it for the perfect pose. There is a way to enjoy both experiences without forsaking either one!