During recovery from surgery, a student of mine asked her doctor when she would
be able to return to her asana practice, adding, “I love yoga!” Her doctor simply replied, “Does yoga love you?”
It’s a question worth asking.
How many times have you come to your mat as a way to “fix” something that’s “wrong”?
How many times have you come to your mat to practice as a celebration of love for whatever is happening in your body, your mind, your emotional self?
And how many times have you come to your mat to achieve, to “own”, a particular pose?
For a long time, my asana practice was comprised of wholly corrective measures.
Savasana to make up for my chronic lack of sleep…Handstands (and caffeine!) to get me amped up for big presentations in my former office worker life… A punishing vinyasa practice to make me feel better about eating that pint of ice cream.
I also had my fair share of yoga practicing simply to achieve a particular pose.
I wasn’t doing these poses to understand body mechanics or to celebrate the amazing possibilities of human movement.
Nope. This was just me doing crazy stuff for the sake of crazy stuff. This was me, consuming and commodifying yoga postures.
Don’t get me wrong. Asana is incredibly good and helping you right the ship, so to speak, to help you strengthen and mobilize the body when you are off kilter. And it’s also really fun to be able to do arm balances and big backbends! Sometimes those poses are the kinds of things you need to motivate you to get to your practice.
But yoga asana is also offering you more than all of that.
As you know have by now noticed and perhaps experience firsthand, the postures in asana practice are never really done. There’s always something more to explore, another step to take, a different variation to try.
When I figured this out, I felt a little disheartened at first. I had this moment where I thought, “Wait, you mean I’ll never be done with this!?” But as time went on, I realized this is one of the most fantastic things about asana and the whole reason we call it a practice.
Yoga in all of its forms, not just asana, is a continual process of discovery.
There is always something more to consider, something else to try, some other way to contemplate what you discover. Simultaneously each asana you practice, in whatever form you do it, is always complete.
It is as if yoga is saying to you, yes, there are another 27 version of this pose but what about the one you are doing right? THIS pose. THIS version.THIS moment. Why are you doing this? Are you fully present to what is happening here? Can find steadiness and ease in body and mind, just as it is? If so, this pose is just as much yoga as all of the others. This pose is not lacking.
And by extension, YOU are not lacking. You are whole. You are complete.
Purna is a Sanskrit word that means ‘complete’ or ‘whole’ or even sometimes it is translated as ‘perfection’.
Purna in asana practice is a call to be really present at each stage and each moment as you are experience it. Because this stage, this moment, is totally and completely whole. Only in experiencing it fully can you see clearly for what the pose or the experience might have to teach you.
So does yoga asana love you? The answer is yes. Yoga always loves you when you practice from a space of curiosity and celebration of the wholeness that is inherently you.