The funny thing about yoga is that almost everyone confuses it with exercise. And while it has been said many times before by scholars much abler than I, yoga does incorporate body postures and breathing, it is really not a form of exercise.
Most yoga teachers know this. If they don’t, with all due respect, perhaps they’re a bit green. Because if you practice with assiduity – and believe me, a yoga teacher who does not practice daily is not a yoga teacher – the other stuff will come. And when the other stuff comes, thus comes the realisation that the postures were only a means to an end. The âsana is the vehicle, the texts are the roadmap, the teacher is the guide, but the destination is wholly unknown.
Yep, no one know where this is taking you. That is the great mystery, and it’s why we practice. We don’t know the lay of the land, we don’t know where this is taking us, and so we get a few surprises (some nice, some not so nice) along the way and sometimes end up not at all where we expected.
Yoga is an intensely personal journey. No one’s experience of yoga will be just like that of another. True, there are road markers along the way and certain steps that are almost universal. but the exact physical, mental and spiritual changes that each yoga practitioner effects are intensly personal.
Why? Because each person arrives at yoga with their own samskara-s, the impressions that make up the character, the ego. So even if Judith and Sarah start the class on the same day, with the same teacher, and never miss a single practice, Judith starts at A but Sarah might well start at K. And perhaps Judith is A on the physical body, but F on the emotional body and a straight up Z on the spiritual front. Meanwhile, Sarah is G, J and L. I mean, who knows? There is no firm measuring stick for any of this, so we don’t even know where we are starting. Maybe we think we’ve gotten quite far with the mental stuff, only to find out that the black dog was lurking just behind us all along.
For this reason, one of my favourite yoga refrains is “Don’t judge a person for where he is on the road. Judge a person for how far he has traveled to get there.”
Get on your mat and practice! Do whatever you can, whenever you can, and open yourself to the mystery of your own life, that will unfold before you. Sweat your prayers, people, and all is coming.
The guru is within you.