The Impossible Becomes Possible
The promise of inner peace does not come at a cheap price. You cannot beg, borrow or cheat your way along the inner journey. Whenever you strive to create a new way of being it is simply not a matter of flipping a switch. Instead you stand at the mountain of new desire and look ahead to a long and sometimes arduous road to the top. But with years of work, patience and diligence anything is possible. Yet when faced with such adversity most people quit or take the easy, known route to average results. While there is nothing wrong with this method of interacting with life, there is a much more powerful way to actually live your life to its maximum potential. Yoga leads the way through disbelief into an accomplished life.
Within the parameters of a sticky mat yoga practitioners are asked repeatedly to perform challenging movements while uniting their breathe, posture and gaze. T. Krishnamacharya described yoga as the process where the impossible becomes possible and the possible over a long period of time becomes easy. The place where many practitioners fall off the path is when they try for easy straight from impossible. If you experience a movement as impossible and want it to be easy immediately, you will certainly fail because change does not happen so quickly. Instead start with the impossible and allow its difficulty to teach you. Stay in those ugly places where learning happens and soon the impossible starts to show you how it one day might be possible. Almost no one gets it gracefully on the first try. Held within the outward form of every light, free and easy posture is years of difficulty, failure and even pain. When you embark on the inner quest of yoga it is the very process of starting at the bottom of a seemingly impossible mountain and then with slow, steady perseverance climbing the mammoth against insurmountable odds that holds the power of transformation. By facing the unfaceable, conquering the unconquerable and confronting the absolutely terrifying places within you necessarily gain access to an experience of yourself that is beyond the struggle itself. It is the experience of a place within yourself as eternally peaceful, powerful and loving that yoga is actually about. The light, free and easy asana is just a matter of seduction. Yoga teaches that only by transcending the illusory world of limitations can you actually move past these false boundaries in your practice and in your life. Every posture, every movement and every breathe you take along the way redefines the very essence of your being. In a sense yoga is the most basic path of self-empowerment.
When you practice a particularly challenging series of postures you have the opportunity to face and move past numerous obstacles along the inner journey including doubt, fear, pain, hatred, boredom, frustration and egotism. These difficult states of mind often evoke deeply ingrained reactionary patterns such as panic, denial and escapism. Some people even pray for a savior to literally do it for them. But yoga is a path of humility where you only gain the results if you put in the work yourself. There is no salvific deity that will do your postures or your practice for you. There are teachers for guidance and inspiration but they can only help you to the extent that you are willing to unroll your mat and help yourself.
Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic form of hatha yoga that asks you to unroll your mat a staggering six days a week. Sometimes Ashtanga yoga is so demanding that it can be intimidating. When I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga I, like most people, was sore all over and not particularly good at it. Many people assume that because they cannot easily bend their bodies into the pretzel-like positions of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series that Ashtanga Yoga is not for them. When I started I also did not have the superhuman strength it asks for nor the Gumbi-limberness that Ashtanga Yoga requires. But I learned it through years of sincere practice. The sole qualification for the practice of Ashtanga Yoga is your love of the practice and your ability to show up on your mat as much as possible. It does not matter what level of posture you perform because the inner work of yoga is fueled by the authentic search for inner peace.
Sometimes one of the first things you experience along the quest of yoga is just how far away you are from your stated intention. Whether it is a peaceful life or a challenging posture yoga works from the inside out and helps you develop the confidence and faith in yourself necessary to accomplish your goals. The postures are hard not because the harder the posture, the deeper the yoga but instead because you grow exponentially when you challenge your borders. The depth of yoga happens in the heart and is irrelevant to physical form. The real yoga always happens on the internal level and it is through devotion and dedication to spiritual practice that the transformation of yoga happens. Ashtanga yoga asks tightness to bend and softness to be strong. It challenges the limits of the mind and the body beyond popular medical notions of safety, possibility and comfort. In doing so practitioners literally expand their consciousness and learn that they can do whatever they set their minds to. But yoga is no magic pill for it is through your own effort that you purify your body and expand your mind. Yoga is as strong as you make it and takes you as deep as you are willing to go.