The first time I walked into the yoga studio where I now make myself at home each weekend, I basked in the hanging lights, the rustic décor and a beautiful, large painting of the Hindu deity, Ganesha. However, as I laid out my mat, I couldn’t help but notice that something was missing: a mirror. I had never been to a yoga studio that didn’t have mirrors before and I contemplated how I was going to be sure that I was doing the poses correctly, or where I was supposed to focus my attention during eagle pose.
Yoga Is A Challenge... Sometimes
While I felt awkward at first (I mean, how was I supposed to know if my knees are over my toes or not?), as the class progressed, I noticed that I felt more at peace in my practice, and more willing to push myself further than I had in past classes. During balance poses, my focal point was a simple spot on the wall, but my mental focus, unlike never before, was entirely inward. I wasn’t worried about how I looked, or how other people looked, or whether or not I was in a perfect position. It was during that class that I realized that yoga has absolutely nothing to do with perfection. It’s about challenging yourself, and learning what your mind and body are capable of; but never stopping to consider what you “can’t” do or to criticize yourself. My form may not be perfect, and sure, I “can’t” do a forearm stand (though my extremely tolerant boyfriend can testify that I will frequently attempt one in the living room when I’m feeling courageous – or bored - and usually wind up rolling forward into the wall). But the incredible thing about yoga is that it’s taught me that I can’t do a forearm stand…yet. It’s taught me to look inward and appreciate where I am in my journey right now, and to look forward to what’s to come. It’s taught me that there is always something more to learn: a lesson that can be applied both on and off the mat.
Yoga Is Yours... Always
Several years ago, when I was just beginning my yoga practice, I would tend to have a difficult time controlling my begrudging facial expression when the might-as-well-be-a-pretzel girl in the front flawlessly floated into crow pose, while I sat back into child’s pose feeling defeated. Since then, I have come to understand that our yoga practice is our own. What we are and are not capable of on any particular day is not at all dependent on what the person next to us is doing. This lesson has allowed me to gain a great deal of respect for the mental and physical strength of those who are further along in their journey than I am, and to look to them for inspiration when I need a challenge to push myself forward.
After becoming accustomed to ending each yoga class with the term, “Namaste,” and a bow towards my instructor, I recently realized that I had no idea what it meant. Upon inquiring, I learned that “Namaste,” a Hindu greeting, is interpreted along the lines of “The divine in me honors the divine in you.” How beautiful it is that one word can express so much. It encompasses everything that I’ve come to love about the practice of yoga and encourages me to appreciate those who have found their own purpose and strength in their practice. Divine, indeed.