With yoga studios popping up on every corner in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA these days, there’s definitely a lot of talk about going to yoga. Jump online or open a magazine and you are sure to find talk about doing yoga. Stand in the midst of voices buzzing at your local coffee shop and you’ll hear people chatting “Do you do yoga? I do yoga. I’m going to yoga. I went to yoga.” Blah, blah, blah.
On my morning dog walk yesterday it hit me that I don’t do yoga and I surely don’t go to yoga. I am yoga. Since I started studying with Sri Dharma Mittra last year in NYC, yoga has really become a way of being for me. Sure I do asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), meditate, study yoga texts and try to follow the yamas/niyamas (note: this list of yoga I’ve incorporated in my life is nicely explained in book II of The Yoga Sutras. Of course, I will give my spin on it all in due time).
Beyond all I’ve just listed though, the nitty-gritty of yoga is really about letting go and surrendering to what is, as it is. It’s about being the best version of you, just as you are. The letting go/surrendering concept is tough, particularly for those Type A’s (probably you!) out there. So let me just clear this up by saying surrendering/going with the flow doesn’t mean to give up and be ball of mush. As Dharma always says (with a grin) when there are 30+ people in his class attempting a challenging posture “you must have angry determination.” He also sometimes says “you must find your own tricks.” And really this is true even off the yoga mat. Yoga is about “finding your own tricks” (another Dharma-ism) to keep you calm, cool and collected in every situation in life.
Even with angry determination and a bag of tricks, there are plenty of roadblocks to being in yoga. I face them everyday, but I’ve also been lucky enough to become more aware of what holds me back from showing up and being my best (not doing my best but being my best).
As sutra 2.3 points out there are five obstacles to yoga: ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and fear of death. I’m not going to dig deep into each of these at this point (see sutras 2.2 – 2.9 for details). I simply want to open your eyes to them. Start paying attention in your life as to how these are present for you. Notice your habits. Recognize your reactions in situations. Do you crave coffee every morning? (attachment) Do you curse when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you avoid unpleasant situations? (aversion) Do you not try something (i.e. handstand in the middle of the classroom) due to fear falling over or dying? (ego, fear of death) What is it that holds you back from being the best version of you? (ignorance)
Trust me, this is a tough batch of sutras (2.2 – 2.9) to write about as I’m still struggling with them in many areas of my life. Hopefully though with some angry determination and a few tricks I discover along the way, these sutras will be a bit easier to write about and discuss. Until then, I will keep trying. As Dharma says “repetition is key.”