I have to be reminded quite often about the importance of Patanjali’s first sutra: Atha yoganusasanam. Now begins the practice of yoga.
Every time I think I have it all figured out, I have to begin again. In fact, I think that believing you know what you’re doing is a sure sign that you need to start from the beginning.
Our practice begins now. And now. And now again.
Right now, I’m in my hometown with my husband. We’re staying at my parents’ house and spending time with my siblings and their kids, and as tends to happen every time I visit home, I’m reminded of the strangeness of family, our weird patterns, our imperfections, the assumptions we make about each other, and the unreasonable expectations we cling to. The hardest part is that I love these people and this place, and I just want everything to be perfect. I want us all to be the best possible version of ourselves 24/7 and make the best of this limited time we have together. And I get attached to that. Attachment creates suffering. I get upset when it doesn’t work out the way I want. I get hurt when my loved ones prove to be imperfect. I feel bad because I’m unable to make everyone happy.
So I begin again. Atha yoganusasanam. Because this is yoga, too.
Today, my sister brought me to a yoga class where the teacher turned out to be a high school classmate of mine — a really sweet person who I hadn’t been close to, but who I always thought was pretty cool. I was thrilled to see that she had become a yoga teacher, too, and a really good one! But my high school mentality crept in a little bit, and I caught myself comparing my practice, my class, my body, my strength and flexibility to hers. When I teach, I always remind my students that we are all in a different place on our unique paths, and that no one’s path or progress is better or worse than the rest. When I teach, I see my students striving for their personal best, and I feel honored to witness them doing this beautiful work. But it’s harder to apply that same appreciation to myself, my practice, my struggles. Ain’t that just the way it is?
Begin again. This time, with compassion.
It was an absolute blessing today to practice with my old classmate. She looked beautiful and happy and healthy, and I was so grateful to share that moment. Likewise, it’s a blessing to be here now with my family. We are imperfect, but to be imperfect together can be so beautiful.