I have been reflecting quite a bit recently on what it means to practice every day, and how different my practice is from one day to another.
It is very, very hard to respect my own limitations. They change everyday. It’s a fine line between going forward and going too far. I’m only competing with myself (at least on most days) but damnit she’s a tough competitor. Another funny point: I’ve learned to live (and enjoy living) painlessly, with one exception: muscle ache. Damn I love my muscle ache.
However some days, I don’t even get to practice asana. Some days, my back is killing me and I can’t wait to twist and get into viparita karani to get some release. The amazing part with Iyengar yoga is that whatever ailment I’m suffering from at that moment, I’m pretty sure there is a way to alleviate it somehow. And dealing with injury usually makes you a better teacher as well.
I had to (re)read sutras II-46 to 52 and one sentence from Iyengar’s commentary on II-46 struck me “Asanas should be performed without creating aggressiveness in the muscle spindles or the skin cells”.
Easier said than done. I have been getting small pains here and there that let me know I’m doing some things wrong and/or pushing myself too hard, but I find it immensely hard to be aware that I’m doing something wrong in the asana, and if I do, what it is and how to modify. Funnily, this has only led me to want to study more. I wish I could practice more, but I have to remind myself to be kind and understanding enough that as a PhD student, this is already enough of a struggle for most people, and I’m already adding to it a daily practice, a teacher training and teaching semi-regular classes two to three times a week. So while I don’t have many family obligations, I still have a lot on my plate and should be happy I get to practice at least an hour on most days.
It’s a bit of an Ouroboros really, since I need to practice more to be a better teacher, but I also need to teach more to become a better teacher, and the time I spend teaching is not spent practicing.
I was thinking about everything that led me to embrace yoga, not only as a physical practice but also as a philosophical/spiritual one. I am so very grateful for all the teachers and writers who paved the way.
My philosophical education has been very random, based both on chance and interest. Philosophy is only taught for one year in French high schools, and it’s obviously way too little to grasp more than one or two concepts (and basically nothing later than greek philosophers, apart maybe from some Descartes).
As a teenager I had A LOT of time on my hands, which I mainly spent reading. It happened that my mom was a fan of Boris Vian and De Beauvoir, so I read everything we had at home, and followed by Sartre and Camus. My eldest brother initially studied literature in classe préparatoire, and a ton of his books were still hanging around so I read whatever was there, from Dune (which had a huge impact on my teenage self) to Saint Augustin. To be honest, I’ve forgotten most of what I read during that time. But my love for Kant does stem from that period.
I somehow tend to get along well with people who like Nietzsche, and thus have learned quite a bit from talking with them. But even though I am agnostic, I am ambivalent in my feelings towards his work (which I admit know only superficially) since I do have an issue with nihilism. While I do not believe in a conscious, godly entity, I do believe that there is a purpose in life, which is realizing that all is one (Remind me what yoga means again? to join or to yoke… Namaste!). There are two ways to get there, in my opinion, through knowledge and through universal love. One may lead to the other. I somewhat rejoin Nietzsche’s views on the Übermensch and self realization. So I guess my problem with Nietzsche might only be one of vocabulary…
Ther it goes on the reading list: Thus spoke Zarathustra. Might not be specifically yogic, but I could get much from Marcus Aurelius’s meditations, so broadening my reading scope may benefit my practice in unexpected ways…