I find myself in a standing forward bend. Today, it feels like it’s the first one I’ve done in a long time and my whole body is talking. My hamstrings feel like over-wound guitar strings and my upper body feels tense and suspended over my legs like a marionette just waking up. My breath feels constricted, like I’m wearing a girdle and despite having two feet planted on the floor I feel a little wobbly. But, I stay, just a little longer, not because some guru somewhere told me that I need to be here for however many breaths but because I haven’t heard the whole story yet. I haven’t yet fully understood myself in this moment.
Staying with the physical sensations gives way to something else. A feeling of awkwardness rises, then irritation, then judgement. I’ve been doing yoga for almost 10 years, I remind myself. Why is this such a struggle? What’s wrong with me? And then Grace dawns and I catch the judgement, the awkwardness and irritation and I come to know them as they form a vast mosaic of inner activity. I watch, I welcome, I befriend. Jeanne de Salzmann say “when I begin to see, I begin to love what I see. No longer separate, I am in contact with it, intensely, completely…. I wake up to what I am and touch the source of true love…”. This is compassion. To behold oneself without attempting to change anything. The Buddhists say that one can’t love without understanding and so I stay in my forward bend, supported by Grace, understanding myself, intimately knowing my tension and struggle, my release and strength. And then it is from this place of love that I move on, perhaps deeper into the pose, perhaps coming out of the pose altogether. It is from deep understanding that I move, not from an idea in my mind, or an expectation placed on me by self or society.
This is my yoga practice where I literally “practice” life. I learn to watch my actions and reactions with compassionate detachment, I witness and welcome all that I am. I practice so that the next time I find myself in a tough situation I can trust all that I have learned. If a friend comes to me in pain, I can behold the tension, judgements and emotion, mine and her own in honour of understanding. I don’t forsake my discomfort, her pain or life’s unfolding – I stay in the difficulty long enough for them to reveal their wisdom. Once again supported by Grace I listen and welcome life. From this place of love, of compassion, I make the choice to stay and go deeper into the moment with her or not. The choice is not compulsive, not based on ideas of what I should do, but on something else. It comes when love and the moment meet in an alchemical union and authentic choice is revealed. This is the living yoga, where the willingness to stay with myself in my practice unfolds compassion and bears fruit in my life.