Am I Good at Yoga?
It's been a while since I last wrote. I've been dealing with a lot of change and continue to anticipate change that is ahead. I recently switched roles at work and am getting up to speed there and now preparing to move apartments. On top of that it seems like I'm giving every other person life advice these days. I might have to start charging people!
On occasion when I've told people about my commitment to yoga, the response has been "Wow, are you good at yoga?" It's a startling question that I don't know how to answer, because what does it really mean to be "good" at yoga? I know what they're really asking is, "Can you do the cool-looking poses?"
If I tell them, "Actually I really struggle with handstand," will they think I'm a fraud? After all, I tout yoga as a huge part of my identity. Even after practicing for 10+ years, I can only hold bakasana for a few seconds on a good day (a very good day).
Does being "good" mean that the strongest and most flexible person is the most enlightened? We've become lost in the idea that yoga is only a series of shapes. To some people yoga is only about contorting your body a certain way, but not about the mental or spiritual lessons that are gained through the practice.
I remember once a woman heard I had my certification and her first question was "Can you do headstand?" I replied that I practice it against the wall or with someone helping me balance. She pursed her lips and said, "Oh really you have to use the wall?" like it was shameful.
Sadly, her clear disapproval made me feel embarrassed, but I realize that's crazy. Why would I doubt my yoga practice when it's a transformative part of my life? I work really hard to be able to do certain poses, and maybe I'll never have the perfect shape, but I'm learning things along the way.
I want other people to understand that you don't have to be a human pretzel to be a yogi. You can be the most flexible person in the room or you can use blocks and straps to strengthen your practice. The most important part is what you're learning along the way. When you fall, how do you get back up again? Do you respect your body and its strength along with its limitations? Did you walk out of your yoga practice slightly changed in some way?
These small changes are what we should strive for. I'm working on headstand and handstand and pushing myself to get over my fears. Through the process I wobble and fall. I get frustrated, but I also get excited seeing my progress. The practice is messy and far from perfect, but that's what life is like too. Maybe I'm not "good" at yoga in everyone's eyes, but what I've learned along the way is pretty great.