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.