Yoga is beautiful. But it’s not done for that purpose. So often, we see beautiful people in expensive outfits doing something impressive. Well, frankly, those yogis are few and far between. Most advanced practitioners are more interested in feeling beautiful inside the pose. Think of the pose as a glamorous gown being draped over the practitioner’s inner light. We are just trying poses on in order to get to the glamor inside, to get to the focus and attention on our Truth (Our deepest, truest Self, our Light, our Love, Spirit). Part of our Truth is what our body feels like from moment to moment. We practice in order to make more space so that we can be filled with flexibility and strength in any situation. In order to do that, we have to look at our individual practice.
What a pose feels like is far more relevant than how it looks. When a yogi is in her full expression of a pose, it is most certainly photo-worthy. She beams from her whole body! It’s beautiful! Speaking as a yoga teacher, I am inspired and beaming whenever I see a student in her best pose. Key word being “her” (or his. I am using feminine pronouns for ease of explanation. Please read them as a genderless “one”). One student’s best pose is far different from the person’s next to her. We seek to find our expression of the pose by looking inward, by feeling it from the core outward to the skin, by breathing fully and exploring it from one moment to the next. Every pose feels different from when you step into it to when you are settled. Every pose feels different from one day to the next. Every pose feels different than every other pose. This is one reason why asana (physical pose) practice takes us into ourselves and into the present. The poses fit differently every time we try them on and our bodies are always shifting. The focus on a steady breath holds the practice together, and even the breath is changing (sometimes we are not even breathing equally through each nostril, and it’s not just because we are stuffed up). With all of this to be aware of and focused on, there is no time to think about how your body looks in the pose, or in your outfit.
Impressive, advanced poses are fun to see, and just because a pose looks challenging and amazing doesn’t mean that it isn’t yoga, or that it is impossible for an intermediate practitioner to do at some point in her life. Those cover photo poses can be inspiring! They are something to look at and know that you can work toward it and receive all the benefits of the practice along the way. It just seems that it would be valuable to put less advanced poses on display more often. The unseen poses are those that create the foundation for such displays. The practice is just that, a practice; a consistent effort to discover the now in the body, mind and spirit. There is always something more to explore, open, strengthen, etc. Furthermore, just because a yogi can stand on her head doesn’t mean she can do a backbend. The beauty of realizing your inner practice is that you get to see what you find accessible and what you find very challenging. As we advance, we realize the value in regularly practicing the challenging poses, as opposed to keeping it only to those we like. Also, as we advance, our body changes and different things become readily available to us.
Our practice is always shifting, not only from one day to the next, but from one decade to the next. When we are 30, our bodies are capable of different things than they are at 50. We are not losing anything; We just need different things out of the practice. Maybe the practice turns further inward as our bodies become less strong, and Restorative poses take on a whole new light. Or, maybe our abundant strength turns into flexibility. The world of yoga is vast. The practice can be anything you want it to be. Just ask yourself, and keep asking yourself, what you want from it. And after you know the answer, look at resources to support that, look at the beautiful magazine covers and be inspired to go further, learn more so you can ask more questions.