“You do not have to be good”
–Mary Oliver, Wild Geese
Expectations are a killer. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard, “I’d be no good at yoga - I can’t touch my toes.” If you already need to be able to touch your toes to begin, then that’s a barrier that many will not be able to cross. Other barriers? To begin, I need to be 100% healthy, calm, thin, poised, superfit, graceful, able-bodied, young, female - can you add more to that list? So often advertising, popular culture, and even yoga publications these days portray yogis as all these things. Not seeing yourself as a yogi is a definite barrier to beginning. So is only seeing yourself fit to begin this yoga journey as some “better” future self, after some serious renovations, like a human This Old House project.
I love Iyengar yoga because BKS Iyengar and his trained teachers don't expect you to wait until you are “better” to begin your practice. I didn’t already need to be good to start. I arrive as I am, and the practice rises up to meet me. Literally using physical props and very detailed instructions to break down every pose lets me be deeply within my own embodiment, perfect as it is. And all I am expected to do to become “better” is to practice with dedication, with energy enough to burn through reluctance and resistance, with a willingness to learn more about my own self along the path, and with a sense of surrender to the mysteries of the universe. By working on my own self I come to understand that this is not all about me. I can both assume and release control. And if I am perfect now yet also capable of change for the better, so are you, whoever you are and whatever barriers you believe are in the way. This is a faith-based practice, and the first step, which we take over and over, is to begin with faith in yourself and the path ahead, and the willingness to step over or around those perceived barriers.
(c) Tristan Boyer Binns, 22 April 2017