I’ve been reminded recently of a conversation I had with some friends in a pub many years ago in South London. At the time, they were triathlon-mad and I just went to a weekly yoga class after work. They were talking about how they were yet to start training for their next competition and I said, “Well, if you don’t think you’ll be ready in time, just don’t do it.”
They laughed. “Oh Wener, you just don’t get it, do you.”*
But what represents progress? Achieving faster finish times? Putting our body into more complex yoga shapes… and posting the results on social media? The recent news about advanced Ashtangi Kino MacGregor is a case in point (read Matthew Remski’s brilliant article about Kino).
To an outsider, my physical ashtanga practice may look like it’s taken a step backwards lately. It has to be a really good day for me to attempt chakrasana, I’m barely binding in the janu sirshasanas, and some days, my practice is just a few cat/cows and yin poses.
But I know that I’m making progress. My lower back and pelvis plays up and I’ve got wonky knees. If I push it, I believe I’ll end up needing knee replacements and have a constant bad back. I want a practice that:
- nurtures my body
- lessens pain
- is honest and kind
- lasts a lifetime.
That’s progress for me.
I’m spending time tuning into the subtleties of the practice: am I moving my groins together? Am I engaging mula bandha and uddiyana bandha? And when I do these things, I feel stronger and have a solid foundation. I’m not merely hanging in my joints and there’s no pain at the end of my practice.
You can’t see any of this stuff on the outside. It’s all internal. But when you make these changes inside, the stuff outside starts to fit into place.
Less really is more. And that is indeed the lesson of yoga.
Kindness melts defenses. Kindness softens edges. Kindness pierces armour. Kindness eradicates shame. Kindness lightens loads. Kindness awakens hope. Kindness clears debris. Kindness invites connection. Kindness opens hearts. Kindness bridges souls. Kindness inspires kindness. Let us always be kind.
*These days, the lovely triathlon ladies can mostly be found in yoga classes and on yoga retreats (Love you, Rach).