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November 12th, 2013

Appreciating Your Asana

By Manduka Ambassador,

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
Friedrich Nietzsche”

Yoga at its essence is the art of transformation. Its practice is accompanied by magnificent postures that can reach super-human levels. As a practicing yogi/yogini, appreciating these postures (asanas) as a work of art and a path to magical transformation can sometimes be difficult. Getting into poses that require a lot of strength and dedication are not an overnight phenomenon. Yoga has been “celeb-ified” by yogis and yogini’s getting into beautiful poses with grace and ease in magazines, facebook, twitter, instagram and the like. It is absolutely incredible, so how am I going to get there? And how long is it going to take? How can one appreciate advanced asana with gratitude and as a work of art? Especially when we sometimes find ourselves listening to the “inner critic” because your asana doesn’t look like your neighbors.

So what’s the point? Is it that important to my own personal transformation to get into pincha mayurasana? Well.. the answer is of course NO. A BIG NO. I think the bigger question is to grasp a higher understanding of who and what we really are. Of course, wanting to get to these poses can most definitely help propel a yoga practice into action. I know that was the case for me. I would hear my teacher instruct the more advanced yogi’s, and I would feel completely left out. Even though she would preface this by stating how “acceptance” and “patience” should be our practice if we couldn’t get into that particular pose on that day. Well, come on.. That’s just not going to happen, that’s the truth. You hear the words, but somehow, when your over run by your “inner critic” you do not hear “have patience”, you hear… “What’s your problem?” “Why did you even come to class?” “She’s totally fit, so its so easy for her.” “That guy just came to yoga for the first time? What gives!” Or whatever other story likes to play on repeat.

The purpose of such postures is to get to what lies beyond the surface, the connection between the body and mind. Most which require strength, balancing prowess, compassion and a whole lot of patience.

In my personal practice, I was able to moderately move towards more advanced poses with a lot of work, practice and PATIENCE. The practice itself is what has had the most effect on my life. I began to really evaluate what the purpose was to getting into these more complex postures. It wasn’t about balancing, or fancy sequencing, it was about appreciating, and having gratitude for where I was in that particular moment. It took me longer than I would like to admit to come to that realization.

A few days ago one of my students was having a hard time getting into Bakasana (Crow Pose) on her first go. She was so frustrated, and I thought how lucky she is. I remember this feeling- the feeling of defeat when everyone else was able to get into a pose and I was the only one who was trying to figure out what was going on. Those are some of the best moments to experience. That is the moment of transformation; that is the practice of yoga, of union, of patience, of love. What an incredible learning opportunity.

Looking on Facebook and Instagram on the daily seeing people post pictures of these incredible forms have a different affect on me now. I know how much effort and work this entails, and how these bodies are truly a work of art. I have realized that advanced asana is subjective. On a practical level advanced asana requires a proper warm up, prep poses and extreme mindfulness. Asana is an integral part of a yoga practice, but most importantly is your approach, your intention. How you appreciate and accept where you are in THIS moment with deep gratitude.

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