I was talking to a noted Los Angeles based bodyworker recently and asked her if she did Yoga at all. ‘I don’t need to’ she replied ‘I’m very flexible’…
I was watching a friend’s video on Yoga anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews’ excellent ‘Yoga Anatomy’ and the point was made:
“That’s a very big thing for people in yoga. When are you done? When have you acquired your last posture? When have you gotten flexible enough? Where does it end? When do you say oh, I’ve arrived?”
Both the idea that Yoga was just about becoming flexible or that you reach a point where you’ve ‘completed’ Yoga seemed very strange to me. There’s an argument I guess that if you become ‘enlightened’ then some kind of end-point has been reached, but in more everyday Hatha Yoga terms I don’t think you ever ‘arrive’ do you?
I’m British and snooker was a very popular sport on British TV some years ago (still is, but not so much). I’ve always remembered something that a many-times world champion – Steve Davis said, he was the dominant player at the time and still plays at a high level (but claims he’s now trying to keep his world ranking lower than his age!)
“To me it’s nature, you go up the rankings and then you down the rankings. The challenge is how long it takes.”
…source: http://www.worldsnooker.com/page/PlayersAlphabeticalArticle/0,,13165~2233683,00.html I first heard him say that when he was very much near the top – it seemed very Zen-like for a player who was sometimes derided for being a ‘boring technician’. He’s still there doing the stuff but at a lower competitive level.
So back to Yoga… surely it isn’t about ‘completing’ anything but maintaining a practice which helps maintain physical and mental health and spiritual well-being. If a flexible 11 year old girl takes up Yoga enthusiastically I’m sure she’ll be hitting some pretty amazing shapes by the time she’s 15 or so. I’d imagine that if they did, as mooted, add Yoga to the Olympics it would be teenage girls and boys picking up a lot of the medals in a similar way to gymnastics (assuming that such competitive Yoga would be marked on extremity of pose etc). I imagine also that most competitive gymnasts don’t continue to practice gymnastics to any high level after they’ve retired from competition (some no doubt going on to be coaches).
Surely Yoga is in part a contemplative practice along with its activity. We do it for the benefits we obtain directly for ourselves and thus it needs to be continuous and lifelong unless the Yogi opts out. This supports physical and mental health and wellbeing continuously throughout life. Surely any idea that Yoga is a course that you ‘complete’ is flawed?