I spent the last week with a room full of wide-eyed, eager yoga students under the direction and discrimination of legendary Iyengar Yoga teacher Manouso Manos.
I’ve heard the stories and had an idea of what to expect. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of this intensive. Every pose, every correction, every adjustment, every smack on the ass – the impressions he created on the physical surface of my practice were so poignant and perfect.
The practice that I brought back was changed dramatically from what I was doing before. Movements are more precise. Actions are more penetrating. My seated posture is more upright. My hips are getting better about staying in their sockets. I’m learning to straighten the leg without locking the knee. You could say that I’m learning to cultivate more skillful action.
That seems worthy enough, right? But I titled this post, “Why Bother?” for a reason.
My family is lovely, really. But when I tell them about spending 35 hours doing yoga for a week in San Francisco, they say, “Oh, that’s nice” with their heads slightly tilted and brows furrowed in a way that only slightly veils their questioning of my sanity. I know what they really mean is, “Why?”
Can you imagine what they would say if I shared with them the excitement of how I learned to sharpen my tailbone in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana? Ha!
They would say… Why Bother?
Manouso reminded us all that according to the Gita – which is the earliest mention of the practice – yoga is skillful action. We can practice the skillful action in our asana practice. We can skillfully navigate daily life. Ultimately, it’s the skillful action that will lead us down the path towards what we seek.
So, what is it that we seek?
Ultimately, yoga is a personal practice. Whatever it is that you seek to get from it, you should make sure that you are getting it. Or at least make sure you are getting closer.
I practice yoga for physical reasons. Manouso put it poetically and succinctly when he said that our physical practice is “for full range of motion and strength throughout.”
I also practice yoga to get closer to that quietness and equanimity whereby my skillful actions produce no pain or pleasure, no comfort or discomfort. I seek what we understand to be enlightenment. It begins in the physical body and (hopefully) penetrates deeply to the core of my being.
That’s why I bother.