The Journey

‘Do, or do not. There is no try.’
–       Master Yoda, Star Wars
The words of our favourite little green jedi seems to advocate the need for perfection and success – the importance of reaching the finishing line and achieving your goal. There is no “try”, there is no attempting to do something and only making it through 50% of the way; you either do it and accomplish that 100%, otherwise you fall flat and acquire 0%.
However, I see it differently. Yoga is all about awareness of your breath, and awareness of your body. True, you can practice your asanas all day to get into what we call “the final pose”, but what truly matters is that throughout the 5 ujaiyi breaths that you are holding your body in an almost contorted and yet beautiful pose, you remain mindful of your heart, your mind, your breath and your body. You are appreciative of where your body is in the journey toward reaching the final pose – from the curvature of your spine to the tension in your finger tips. In asana practice, we must not see the final pose as something definite, something that our bodies must achieve for us to feel like we have “done the asana correctly”. Rather, the final pose is but a human construct, a guideline that gurus before us have set for us to work toward. Every step of the way that we take in working toward that goal is no less significant and no less “correct” an asana. Yoga is about the journey, not the destination. In fact, is there really a “final” destination? Each step toward a goal is in itself a small destination, and when we reach what we call our “final” goal it really isn’t “final” is it? We continue to push ourselves, to keep improving because there really is no finishing line in our journeys as yogis.
For example, in Uttitha Trikonasana, the final pose requires us to hold on to our big toe. Yet the essence of the pose is keeping our spines straight and a lateral flexion from our hips. Many beginners lack the flexibility to proceed all the way down to hold on to their toes during their first few attempts and so they compensate by flexing forward from their hips and rounding their backs toward the ground. Indeed, they can easily touch the ground from there, but they have failed to maintain the integrity of the pose. Instead, one should work toward the final pose slowly, but surely. Beginners can start by holding on to their shins, and then moving down toward their ankles. Eventually, grabbing hold of their big toes will be no problem at all. They should not see their physical inability to reach their toes as a failure to do get into Utthita Trikonasa. In fact, they have done more than simply “try” to get into the pose, they have actually “done” it. A variation of the asana does not make it wrong, as long as one remains cognizant of the essence of the pose and maintains its integrity.
In other words, imperfection does not equate to failure. We should work toward complete awareness, rather than total perfection. The practice of Yoga has taught me to channel my energy toward the appreciation of my breath, and that success in all things can come if I take them just one deep inhale, and one long exhale at a time.
Just DO it.

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