On the Exceptions to Achievement


Earlier today, a student asked me if I’d seen fitness chain Equinox’s YouTube video featuring yoga teacher and model Briohny Kate Smyth. I very rarely watch YouTube videos, not even to watch yoga clips, but this was one I’d watched on the recommendation of a fellow teacher and practitioner.

It was so fluid, she marveled, that it almost didn’t seem like yoga. Then she added, a tad wistfully, Kelan ko kaya magagawa ‘yun?

Best not to think along those lines, I told her smiling. It will only breed discontent.

She paused at the doorway, then nodded. Oo nga. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Then she looked at me and waved goodbye.

Truth be told, I’ve had countless moments in my practice when I’ve looked at other practitioners (on the mat or on the page) and wondered (with envy or with despair): When am I ever going to do that? When am I ever going to move with that kind of ease and strength and grace?

And a sneering little voice says: Never. You’ve gone as far as you can go. Leave the acrobatics to the superstars.

The fact that this kind self-doubt and self-deprecation is a constant presence in my practice makes it a minor miracle of sorts that I actually teach yoga for a living (among other things). Until I became a yoga instructor, I only ever ventured into careers where I was clear that I could excel. What, after all, was the point in doing something that you couldn’t do better, or just as well, as the best in your field?

There’s no point really; there’s just the quiet happiness that comes from doing something you thoroughly love and unabashedly enjoy (which is also, embarrassingly enough, how I feel about singing).

Sometimes, and this still amazes me, life isn’t about achievement.

Thank God.

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