On the Absence of Padding


So, today’s survey of bodily collateral damage reveals at least four new visible bruises: three on my legs and one on my posterior. It’s not unusual for me to sport these black and blue tattoos on my skin—I seem to have a gift for materializing collisions with even the most innocuous of surfaces. This time though, clumsiness had nothing to do with my recent spate of injuries. All of them had to do with just sitting.

And just sitting is pretty much what I’ve been doing these days when I’m not contorting myself like a pretzel. But when you’re doing it for hours on end on a hard wooden floor, with the heels of your feet digging into the flesh of your shins because you’re seated lotus-style, you’re bound to end up with a purple-colored indentation or two. And I’m not alone in my suffering. My co-trainees—a remarkably fit and hardy bunch that includes a Barre3 instructor and a jujitsu teacher—have remained stoic in the face of everything except the constant sitting.

It’s okay, one of our administrators reassured us cheerfully. It’ll stop hurting by the second week. By then your posterior’s just going to be way too numb.

All of which explains why the concept of tapas, or “voluntary suffering for one’s own purification,” is a crucial aspect of the practice of ashtanga yoga. When the most mundane of acts can become an instrument of torture, it’s comforting to know that “working your butt off” can literally be your ticket to achieving liberation.

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