A list I made close to a year ago had one thing on it near the very top that I thought would never, ever in my deepest dreams be achieveable.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that wild of a goal, but for someone like me who finds it hard to locate even the goalposts on a football pitch let alone take a shot at one and score, it was a pretty out there task for me to set myself. I’ve probably confused you now with thinking my aim was to become some kind of sports guru and become successful playing for some prolific team or other – I regress.
No. My goal was yoga.
“Yoga. Yoga. Yoga”.
I had written this after a hastily scribbled list of numbers, on a cheap paper towel probably acquired from the latest coffee shop where I’d sat in confusion flailing about mentally and trying to somehow quieten my racing thoughts and notions by writing them down on the closest thing available. It looked something like this:
2. “I want to be able to do all the really really difficult yoga poses”
The funny thing is I don’t think I even knew what I was talking about when I said ‘all the really difficult yoga poses’, because, let’s face it, there are hundreds! Even now after a years’ full practice and endless research, both online and group-setting classes taken, I am still encountering new poses and variations. New variations that have kept varying as the practice has grown and been shared over centuries of yogis discovering the benefits of it. I couldn’t possibly have known the extent of the goal I had set myself. It was almost like setting myself the challenge of sampling every flavour created of Bertie-Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans – a task made all the more challenging given the fact that they are a fictional confectionary craze, but let’s not bring the blurred lines of ‘fact and fiction’ arguments of Harry Potter into this…
My point is that in setting myself such an unrealistic goal, I was inevitably setting myself up for failure. Not failure in the sense that I have not achieved anything since I began practicing yoga, but failure in that there will always be something new about each pose or breath to learn; new variations to experiment with, and ultimately, new things being established that I do not know about the practice of yoga. Not only that, but in my practice these days, I no longer aim for the perfection of doing the ‘difficult poses’ for the sake of it – if my body is feeling up to it, I do them. If not, I don’t. The focus has shifted from wanting to do the poses, knowing that they are achievable, to actually just being in the moment and feeling and listening to my body.
In seeing how far I’ve come in a year, and realising that although I have progressed and learned a great deal, not only in regards to yoga practice, no surer have I ever been that there will always be more out there ahead of us in life to experience, and that the world is an ever-evolving, ever rotating sphere of confusion on which we just happen to be positioned; downward-facing dog or not.
The point of writing this was not to brag about how steady and reliable my headstand now is- although I am quite proud of it! – but merely to reinstate a point I’ve made before which we all know to be true, yet always seem to gloss over in the heat of moments that seem as endless as they are intense;
Life is a continuous progression from one moment to the next, each one irrelevant to the one which has gone before it, save when we choose to link them together.
In setting myself the task to learn things that I not only did not know existed yet, but were yet to be established as the variation of themselves that they currently are practiced as, I was straining my gaze into a black hole of impossibility, instead of focusing on the now.
The poses I have perfected to date have only been perfected in the moments in which I was positioned in them. I have the ability to say that yes, I have done this, but in reality every headstand I have done since the first has varied, and every one I will do from now will vary from that also. Things change. People move on. We grow; lose weight; gain weight; balance out; live.
In the end all we have is this moment.
All I have and can know for sure right now is the truth that I possess the ability to do those yoga poses, and that last year I didn’t, or else, hadn’t discovered I could yet. I’m not saying every time I do them they are perfect, or correct, or the same as before, but I know that I have previously achieved some sort of competency in them. If I never try to do a headstand again, I’ll be content in knowing that I once achieved it, and so achieved a part of a seemingly impossible goal I had once set myself and considered important. But like I said, the importance of actually doing them has disappeared completely. I’ve gotten to the stage where I see even setting myself goals to be slightly pointless, preferring rather to keep possibilities as dim ideas in my head, instead of focusing my energy too much upon the future.
All we have is now, and when we consider the syncronization of thought and action that yoga makes achievable, all the lists and plans for potential action or future possibilities that have not in fact happened yet seem fairly pointless. With correct yoga practice, we move in the now, for the now, with no agenda or hidden desires behind our movement save a need to feel our physicality and sit comfortably within it in that moment; a return to the Sattavic principles of spirituality where childhood and the purity that is associated with it are sought after.
I will definitely someday qualify officially as a yoga instructor, but as of now I have no set plans in place to do so. If it happens, I’ll be all the more appreciative of it having not thought into it and over-planned practices that haven’t yet occurred. I’m comfortable right now sitting as I am, as I would be were I positioned in any of the many poses I have thus far encountered, and have yet to try.