Writing fearlessly is a good thing. My half-hearted opinions will waste your and my time. Whatever stage of Yoga you are at, I would like you to think and dwell on what am trying to write.
My yoga practice goes back to 9 years now. It was two pregnancies and a few years later, I started doing it seriously. I trained under both Hatha and Iyengar Yoga gurus. At the moment, I am desperate to get myself enrolled under a good yoga teacher to enhance my knowledge on various breathing techniques.
I joined the bandwagon of Instagram yogis 2.5 years back
It was on Instagram I saw the international yoga teachers and practitioners had taken Yoga to another level. I am in awe of their knowledge and practice. I have myself benefited from watching the poses posted. The advanced poses do get a lot of attention and followers.
Contemporary yoga is all about ‘ableism” – how able you are to do what you are doing. Lesser stress on learning and more on demonstrating. I come across yoga teachers doing handstands at the edge of mountains, rooftop sides. Physical limits are being pushed, challenged and every possible barrier is being created just to destroy it! All this is enchanting to a girl who likes to push herself too. The level of balance, stability and strength demonstrated is mind blowing, inspiring, I run to my mat, open it and try the impossible. It gives me a kick. My ego takes a happy trip when I manage to achieve some crazy pose. And when I don’t – I don’t really get discouraged but I keep trying to the level of obsession. You too?
The Ego Trap
While I absolutely enjoy the advanced poses given the adventure and thrill, there comes in a trap when ego enters my practice. The ‘need’ to get it right at any cost. It is at this stage my self worth gets tied to Yoga. Exactly here! When am trying to do a hands free headstand. Or bend my back upside down to touch my heels. I tell myself – “do it, try. This is it”.
I practice, practice and practice to failure most of the times. It is when I fail – I question myself – was that even Yoga?? (yup failures are those speed breakers slowing you down to reassess). I then challenge myself to do the Pincha Mayurasana in its full glory and grace to remind myself of how powerful traditional yoga is.
Will I stop trying/doing the ‘craziest’ of poses that don’t even qualify as Yoga?
No. I will go for them every other day, they make me feel so good, the validations on social media give my ego a massive kick. Also, they make me see my own progress. What I couldn’t do once, has now happened. But with all this contortion and twisting – I might learn to look at it in a very detached way. I need to literally step back from the mat and challenge myself to do “pure” Yoga. – I tell myself, “Tanya – show me how you hold the warrior for 5 minutes in its complete form”. I give up within 2 mins. My ego shatters, I come back to the mat more humble and ready to put in more.
A split is not the only one way to bring flexibility in your qauds. And it belongs to the realm of gymnastics. It’s not the only way to work on your flexibility.
A handsfree headstand gives no more benefits than a regular headstand. It does ‘demonstrate’ your grip on balance though.
There are some amazing yogis around the world who do not have the grace and the easy movement to create the viral social media posts. Their understanding and teaching of Yoga is impeccable and people are ready to shell out any amount of money to learn from them. They aren’t endorsing brands etc. at all – They learn and teach Yoga which has healed and humbled people.
Do I admire people who push their physical limits to achieve the impossible? Oh yes – I most certainly do! But what they is a mix of yoga, gymnastics and other forms of workouts weaved together.
– My yoga teacher challenges me to do the Warrior 1 pose for 5 minutes. I give it my best and fall at 2.5 minutes. The benefits of stability, balance and every muscle working towards strength are immense here.
– None of the Yoga training I have attended under established gurus have ever pushed me to do majority of the poses posted on social media. I was with Usha Devi at Rishikesh in a class full of 40+ international yoga teachers and practitioners and we died through her class with lengthening holds but never did anything close enough to the madness being posted on social media.
It’s ok if you can’t do splits, inversions or binds. That’s just a very small part of Yoga anyway
Many people can’t do binds etc. even after 8 years of practice. Losers??? No! Nothing is wrong with you. You are still doing Yoga but it’s probably not getting you the attention which you may or may not want. But if you are drawing benefits out of your practice, enjoying your practice and are able to stay fit, you are doing just fine. You also probably have a full time job that leaves you no more than 40 minutes of time everyday for your practice. And hence you only have that much time to learn and grow. Yet – you are growing, learning.
We all grow and we grow out.
What inspires us today may not inspire us at all tomorrow. When Yoga asanas become a lot about ego, then we also stop growing – internally for sure. There is gymastics, acrobatics for all of that. As an ardent practitioner of yoga myself, I know that people come to Yoga for healing – from trauma, from accidents and rapes. So remember that yoga is much more than advanced poses.
It’s hard to accept ourselves without our achievements and the validations tied to them – the learning of that is what makes yoga different from gymnastics, and strength training.
One of the finest Yoga teachers and practitioners by the name of Kino, posted this article recently – Would You Still Love Me If I didn’t Handstand Anymore?
This article shook the world of Yogis all over and made them reassess as to what exactly were they trying to achieve with there Yoga practice. Here are some words:
“So much of the contemporary yoga world is tied to ableism. Young students born with natural physical talent or those with years of dance, gymnastic or other training excel to soaring heights and are lauded as champion teachers. Students of yoga give these yogis talk time and elevate them to a high status based on the prowess of their physical bodies. But what’s at the heart of a system of preference that places physical form as the highest standard of value? ” – Kino
If you are a beginner in yoga today, it can be intimidating. You will see very tall standards set for you.
Learn Yoga properly, stick to one good teacher for years, and literally go blind to social media for a while – else your practice will be interrupted by the baggage you will create for yourself by watching people who have invested decades into yoga, who come to yoga from background in gymnastics, dancing or have natural physical talent. You will be drawing yourself into comparisons that aren’t meant for you and won’t help you grow your practice.
Happy practice, whichever stage of Yoga you are at.
That’s such a wonderfully written article. Ego is the one which stops us from growing from within. And we need this reminder on a regular basis.
They say there is a good ego too – that keeps us going despite everything. Wonder if ego is all that bad ?
This is so true Tanya. Sometimes I feel so inferior and incompetent when I get stuck in the spiral of Yoga posts on Instagram. I start questioning if I am worthy of teaching Yoga to people. I have to force myself to get out of that line of thought. Then I roll my mat and start my practice. The basic Sivananda series, which always calms me down!
But I am in awe of your practice. Have seen you grow and how. Insecurities will never leave us, but I think self love and self care is a daily choice, daily chore and daily struggle.
I just saw something in u it was the spark spunk n the stillness
What a beautifully written article :an insight for us who are attempting to get better n I truely feel ur a great writer teacher n an inspiration