By the time you read this article, the new decade and year of 2020 will well and truly be underway. Starting a new year brings reflection and new focus on all the areas that we dreamily hope to improve or change, and we take stock of the year or 10 years gone by, sometimes wondering how we got to where we are today.
Many people posted photos of themselves from ten years ago vs present day on social media and it reminded me to stop and pause on my own journey through the last decade. A lot can happen in a year, let alone a decade! The photos of smiling faces often hide the effort, trials, tribulations and pain that people have gone through from one point in time to another and the person looking out from the 2020 photo is often very different from the one in 2010 How many times have you heard someone say – “Where did the time go? How did I get here?!”
“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.” Steve Miller
My personal journey has been, for the past 25 years or more, supported by my asana practice and illuminated by study of philosophy, both of which have now become my sadhana (self-practice) – whether the two have intensified because of the events in my life or due to them is hard to say, but the results are the same, the deeper and more subtle limbs of Astanga Yogasuch as Pratyahara (withdrawl of the senses), Dharana (concentration) and Dyana(meditation) have started to both comfort and inspire me in what can be sometimes a turbulent world, as if the wheel of those 8 limbs is turning slowly to reflect deeper waters to draw from.
“If you are looking for a whale, you cannot search in a pond, you must go to deep waters.” Prashant Iyengar
For many of us who have come to yoga through attending classes, the physical practice of Asana is a steady path to follow. It keeps us healthy, nimble, strong and happy and many of us stay quite happily for years with purely this aspect of the practice alone. We know that it is different from other forms of “exercise” as it affects the organic functioning of the body, the nervous system and the mind.
“We are missing the gold is we do asanas as a physical practice only.” Geeta Iyengar
As time passes and we continue to persevere in our practice, we find ourselves in a comfort zone we never thought possible in the beginning. Do you remember your first yoga class? Your first dog pose? Your first teacher training session? (I do, I was terrified!) Your first trip to India perhaps? One minute we are struggling to do a simple forward bend, the next we are in Sirsasana (head stand) in the middle of a yoga studio while the teacher gives us instructions to stay longer! Wait a minute? What happened? Look at the photos of my two poses for example, one from 2009, the other from 2010. Both look the same but the intensity, sensitivity, understanding and feeling in the later one is much deeper.
“It is impossible to pass from ‘bad’ to ‘best’ without passing through ‘good’. BKS Iyengar
When I was a child, I had a poster in my bedroom that had the phrase, “Time is just nature’s way of stopping everything from happening at once.” I think my parents put it there to remind me not to want everything all at once. This phrase has often come into my mind when I’ve become impatient with myself of, as I see it, underachieving, not getting there fast enough, not learning enough or teaching enough.
Instead of being impatient, wanting everything NOW we could reflect that like BKS Iyengar said once, life is like a river, it never stops, even when we think that progress is slow, the river is still moving and where it seems that one person achieves great things in a short space of time, there are others, like the tortoise, who get to their finish line slowly and steadily, but she gets there. Along the way, we must keep our hearts and minds open to all the gems of knowledge and experience that go into making our lives fully rounded and our yoga practice deeper and fuller. It doesn’t have to be the possessions we have, or the wealth we have accumulated at the end of those ten years that makes us smile in our photo, but the spiritual richness gained by all our collective experiences lived with an open heart, curious mind and sense of self both in our day to day life and our time in our Sadhana.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” Bhagavad Gita