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Bhanu Bhatnagar

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'Good' Versus 'Bad' Yoga Practice

Posted: 29/11/2012 09:15

"Abide not with dualism,
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong,
Confusion ensues, and Mind is lost"
----Edward Conze, Buddhist Scriptures

The other day, my yoga practice just wasn't up to my standards. During my morning asanas I lacked energy and drive, unable and unwilling to move myself into basic poses, let alone complicated ones. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement. I enjoy the heat of a yoga practice, the sweating and the dynamism. I am dominated by the fire and air elements (pitta and vata, respectively). This means I have a lot of energy to burn before even trying to sit down in quiet meditation or stillness. And it's probably the reason I so enjoy a high energy practice which leaves my body exhausted and my mind at ease.

But there I was, on my mat in a self-practice class, watching everyone around me flip from one pose to another. I just couldn't find the energy within me to push myself to do more, to create more heat, to get a better workout, to see some progress.

And it got me thinking, what does a "good" practice even mean? It's a complete contradiction if you stop and think about it. My body and mind are different from minute to minute, forget about day to day. So it's only natural that some days will be "better" than others.

Yoga teaches us that duality is a misconception. We mistakenly identify with form and our thoughts reinforce the sense that we are separate from the rest of the universe. And then we get caught up in judging everything, what's good, what's bad, what's progress and what's failure. But all that incessant thinking misses a fundamental point: there is no good or bad. That's a judgment call made by my limited mind. Things just are. And it is in accepting them that we find joy and peace.

Everything in life consists of dualistic forces and in yoga we try to balance these. Hatha yoga, the mother of all modern yoga forms, literally means sun (Ha) and moon (Tha). We aim to balance these opposing energies through the practice of pranayama, meditation and asana.

Back on my mat, I found myself watching my mind and my body as they struggled to complete the 2-hour practice. I was unhappy with my performance. We live in a world obsessed with perceived progress and visible results. We place unrealistic and unnecessary expectations on ourselves and then we suffer when we can't meet them. I'm just as guilty of this kind of unconscious torture as anyone else. There i was thinking I was having a "bad" practice because I wasn't strong enough, fast enough, hot enough. And then I caught myself smiling at the irony of it all. So I accepted my tired and deflated body with love, recognising that my mind was attaching judgment to my practice. The practice itself always was, and is, beautiful.


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