Taking one step back — and "not trying too hard"

I wanted to make some things clear about the blog and web­site. The rea­son that I’m writ­ing it is not because I have any spe­cial knowl­edge about yoga, pranayama, med­i­ta­tion or life, except for what I have expe­ri­enced within my body’s skin. I am writ­ing about it because yoga (under­stood in the broad­est sense) is the most impor­tant thing hap­pen­ing in my life. I am writ­ing about it with all the con­tra­dic­tions and incom­plete vision of a novice.

Erich Schiff­mann wrote in Yoga: The Spirit and Prac­tice of Mov­ing into Still­ness:

Yoga is a sophis­ti­cated sys­tem or achiev­ing radi­ant phys­i­cal health, superb men­tal clar­ity and there­fore peace of mind, as well as spir­i­tual nsight, knowl­edge and understanding.

When I started fool­ing around with yoga late last year, I played a trick on myself. I told myself that yoga should be easy and I didn’t have to “try hard.” Instead of fol­low­ing my DVD rou­tine, I switched to doing a much less phys­i­cally demand­ing audio CD rou­tine. When I stopped try­ing hard and began lis­ten­ing to my body, rather than keep­ing pace with Rod­ney Yee, I began to have glimpses of what Schiff­mann is writ­ing about. I had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence with med­i­ta­tion — I stopped “try­ing hard” and relaxed into a deeply refresh­ing rest­ful­ness of mind. I said, “Wow — I’ve got to get me some more of this.”

In this whole process, I’ve never really had a “moment of con­ver­sion.” It’s been a grad­ual change in which I’ve learned not to “try too hard” and take myself too seri­ously. If I did, I wouldn’t be out on a mat in a stu­dio expos­ing my pearly white legs and my extra gut that cuts off my breath in halasana. I just tell myself that Bud­dha had a few extra pounds him­self, if you judge from some of the stat­ues. I know that I could get a lot more out of my classes if I did not try to keep pace with the oth­ers. That’s one of the rea­sons why I like Sam Dworkis’s advice: The Oper­a­tive Word of Yoga Must Be: Toward :

Because the word yoga can be loosely defined as union and bal­ance and because the human body can never be per­fectly bal­anced, then an appro­pri­ate yoga prac­tice can only move a per­son toward bal­ance of body, mind, breath, and spirit.

Of course, the coda to this tan­gent is that if you don’t chal­lenge your­self — what Schiff­mann calls “find­ing your edge” — you’re not going grow in your prac­tice. It just seems that know­ing my own psy­cho­log­i­cal makeup, my most risky behav­ior when I overex­ert myself and don’t lis­ten closely enough to my body.