The Unlikely Yogi Begins Studying the Sutras

Published on June 20, 2012

I’ve started studying the Yoga Sutras, and I’m beginning to think I might be a bit of a jerk. The thought of referring to myself (or anyone else for that matter) as divine or in the pursuit of divine nature makes me cringe. All my years of cynicism and egocentricity are catching up with me, and what I read in the sutras is the exact opposite of how I’ve lived my life. To be honest, these are the aspects of yoga I avoided for some reason, and I now realize that by avoiding them, I have not been doing the work to make necessary changes in my life. I lack devotion to both my yoga practice and myself.

My yoga teacher gave me the book The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras. The book is easier to read than earlier translations of Patanjali’s original scriptures. The challenge now is to strip myself of the ego, which has dominated my life and led me away from my path. With the sutras, I hope to more fully embrace my divine nature. I begin with the first sutra:

“With humility (an open heart and mind) we embrace the sacred study of Yoga.”

In these early days of my yoga journey, I find myself looking around the room (which I shouldn’t be doing in the first place) and becoming annoyed at my classmates who can balance perfectly on their heads or who can bend their bodies in ways I’m sure will end up killing me.  My competitive nature gets the better of me, I try to will my way into these poses, and I fail miserably. This failure inevitably makes me view my classmates with jealousy. Admitting this in writing makes me feel ridiculous, but it’s true. I get angry and humiliated, and for some reason I think my inability to do certain poses is a reflection of me. Clearly some over thinking has occurred.

“With humility (an open heart and mind) we embrace the sacred study of Yoga.”

Last week I set that as my intention for each practice, and I would repeat it to myself every time I became frustrated with my inability to do certain poses. I may have had a breakthrough. We were doing the firefly pose, and I realized I just sucked at it. In fact, it may take years of practice before I can do it, and I just have to accept that. It`s a position I`ve never put my body in before, and there is absolutely no reason I should be able to do it. I`ve made my peace with it. I’m embracing it.

The lesson here goes beyond the mat. Joseph Campbell once said, “From perfection nothing can be made.” I now realize being good at everything only fuels the ego and takes you away from your purest form of being. The greatest lessons are learned when practicing patience with oneself in the face of challenges. That is the true essence of yoga. Looking back, I likely lost out on valuable opportunities just to keep my ego intact. If I had truly been able to practice patience with myself, life may have taken me down other paths. I’ve missed out on many tiny victories because I was too focused on the big ones.

I never thought I’d say this, but I hope I continue to face failures, and I truly hope you all relish in the joy and acceptance of sucking at something.

How has yoga helped you face some of your challenges?


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