On the Tyranny of Practice


A good friend texted the other day bemoaning her flat feet.

I hate my flat feet! She lamented. They make it impossible for me to maintain my balance in yoga.

T.’s reaction is common enough among yoga practitioners. It also runs counter to one of the essential intentions of the practice, which is to embrace things as they are at the moment. To use the discipline as the context within which to castigate our short arms, dangly legs, bony necks, protuberant vertebra, tight hamstrings and fallen arches—these physiological shortcomings that we accuse of precluding the execution of the ideal pose—is to miss the point of practicing altogether.

Because the fact is, there is no ideal pose—just the pose that is right for every one of us. Humility in yoga very often boils down to having the willingness to surrender to our bodies as they are rather than subjugating them to our ideals. There is work to be done, yes, there is progress to be made yes, but it must be done in the spirit of gratitude: that we even have bodies to work with, limbs to stretch, lungs to fill, moments (even) to spend in the practice of yoga.

Truly, it’s so easy to do violence to ourselves. And we have so very many weapons at our disposal.

So let’s try to demilitarize our yoga practice, or our meditation practice, or any of the many other practices that we undertake. Life’s too short to be lived as a battlefield.

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2 thoughts on “On the Tyranny of Practice

  1. Chris says:

    Wow. Beautiful. I’ve been teaching for 12 years and I encourage my students to always meet themselves where they’re at. Your post on the Tyranny of Practice is so poignant and I couldn’t agree with you more. Yoga is not about performing for others or competing. It is totally subjective and very personal. Thank you.

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    • Eileen says:

      Thank you, Chris! It’s not very often that I get to hear from fellow yoga teachers, and it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to hear what it’s like for others. Thank YOU for taking the time to share your thoughts. 🙂 I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I was on a bit of a…hiatus.

      Like

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