Asana is not the goal.
This is totally lame of me to write. Lame and hypocritical. Lame and hypocritical and redundant. Lame and hypocritical and redundant and obv...well you get the point. There are any number of adjectives and adverbs I could use to describe what I'm about to write. However, it needs to be written by me right here and now, as a public service announcement but also as a personal reminder.
Asana is not the goal of yoga, I promise it's not. Anyone new to yoga, or anyone with an Instagram account may not realize this, but it's true. Don't get me wrong, I fucking love asana practice. When I'm teaching or even just on my mat as a student I feel strong as hell, powerful, dare I say - invincible? But all of this is beside the point. The purpose of my yoga is to allow myself to observe the space I'm in moment by moment, to not be afraid of the madness in mind, to live in this space without fear of judgement or rejection. Ultimately the goal of my yoga is to not want to blow my brains out of my head every second of every day, and to generate enough awareness to recognize that when I do have these thoughts to not let them consume me.
As with many westerners, when I started my yoga practice it was allllllll about the poses. I tried to play it cool and pretend that it wasn't, but my inner cheerleader (and perfectionist) was not about to let myself be bad at something that was (seemingly) easy. Most practitioners I've met have a goal pose in their head, some interpretation of the deepest expression of some ridiculous thing they saw that will make them feel like, "Yes! I've done it!" For some it's headstand or handstand. For me, it was scorpion. My feet absolutely had to touch my head. Why? Couldn't tell ya. But I just knew that I wasn't shit as a yogini until I could bend in my back enough to get my feet to introduce themselves to the thick ass hair on the top of my skull. I obsessed, day and night, 25/8, about making everything look absolutely perfect. Yet the deeper I dove into asana practice, the more miserable I became. Sometimes my suicidal ideations got so bad during savasana I had to get up and leave the studio as everyone else was resting (fucking rude by the way. Please try not to be this person). Honestly, it wasn't until I went on a 10 day vipassana meditation retreat where I did absolutely zero asana practice and only sat with me, myself, and my mind (and about a jillion other people) that I began to unlock the secrets of my physical practice.
It sounds a bit hokey, I know. Even as I'm typing this all I can think about is that scene in Doctor Strange where Benedict Cumberbatch is talking to Tilda Swinton and she tells him that she knows how to "reorient the spirit to better heal the body". Trust me, I wouldn't believe it myself if I hadn't experienced it, but it's true.
Now don't get me wrong, I love the fuck outta asana practice. I'll take my camera out and photograph that handstand in a hot second. If you follow me on Instagram (I mention IG a lot because it's the only social media I'm on) then you'll see quite a few pictures of me doing some something. I will admit that the majority of my IG posts are about creative artistic expression as a photographer since I don't actively work in that field anymore, but I digress. ASANA IS NOT THE GOAL! I could (and do) do a ton of other things if it were only about physicality. Shit, when I'm at the gym 6 days a week lifting weights that's when how I look is my end all be all. "Check out these gainz," I say to myself as I flex in the mirror (I don't actually do this; I'm taking creative license). Do you even lift bro? I lift so that I can carry all my groceries inside in one trip (cuz I'm a strong, independent woman who don't need no man). But I practice asana so that when I sit down on my little $10 Target pillow to meditate my body is so fucking exhausted that I am forced to just let go and observe the weirdness I've got going on upstairs (no really, my brain is like Google Chrome with 2,390,483,204 tabs open).
Anyhow, I could probably rant about this all day, but it's 1 in the morning (why am I always up late writing?) and I'm sure we all have better things to do. I'll just end with the fact that yoga isn't a competitive sport. There's no Lombardi for the perfect eka pada rajakasdfjkl;ioejf@!@. So chill. Easier said than done, especially when we live in such a fast-paced, competitive world that places so much emphasis and self worth on achievement. Enjoy doing poses, but don't take them so seriously. If you fall out of one just laugh it off (I fall at least once in every class and I'm learning to just laugh at myself), breathe and meditate once in a while (or not, but if you don't you're doing yourself a major disservice and robbing yourself of some awesome benefits). But most of all, have fun! Use all that you've cultivated on your mat and spread it out into the rest of the world. A little birdie once told me that's where the real yoga happens anyway.
And in case you're wondering, yeah, my feet eventually did touch my head in scorpion pose. And guess what happened? Not a damn fucking thing. 🤷🏾♀️