"I don’t believe that the lesson of yoga is to learn that I’m perfect the way I am or to accept my place in the world or anything of the kind.
It’s a modern form of Tapasya, an attempt to burn away “the bad fat,” as we read in Guruji’s Yoga Mala, in both its literal and figurative forms. It’s hard. It’s rough. It’s grueling.
And, apparently, I still suck at it."
Much of what Steve says here resonates with me. I also agree that the purpose of yoga isn't to learn that I am perfect as I am; or maybe I am perfect, but to get to that perfection, I need to burn away a little "bad fat." Which is what the practice is for. And it takes a while (actually, according to Guruji, it takes Dirga Kala--a long, long while) to burn away that bad fat. And in the process, one gets to see the badness of that bad fat in all its glory (ego, assholeness, etc.).
Actually, I suspect that this is one of the main sticking points that separates Ashtangis from other yogis. If one does the Ashtanga practice daily, one cannot help but see all that "bad fat". And once you see the bad fat, you can't ignore it; which means that you will almost inevitably think that you "suck." I'm guessing that's probably why so many Ashtangis come across as being self-critical, even self-judgmental, in their writings: Writings on many an Ashtanga blog are filled with reports about how one's practice on or off the mat is still lacking in this or that area, and how this or that area needs more work.
I, of course, am a constant contributor to such writing. So much so, that not too long ago, a commenter on one of my posts remarked that devout Ashtangis are not peaceful and very judgmental. I have to say that there's something very funny about being accused of being devout (maybe yoga is a kind of religion, after all) and not peaceful: It's a little bit like being accused of not being happy... I mean, what do you want me to do, be more happy?
In any case, I don't think Ashtangis write like this in order to be intentionally unpeaceful and judgmental. It's the stuff that the practice forces you to see in yourself; and if your writing is "real", it will reflect this stuff. Stuff which induces in you a perpetual sense of "sucking." I think David Garrigues made pretty much the same point when he said something to the effect somewhere that the practice induces a constant sense of disappointment and failure. And perhaps failure and disappointment aren't such bad things if you face them down on a daily basis: They simply become the fabric of your existence and a constant reminder of how much work there is to be done. To use a very cliched expression, it is what it is.
So if everything I just said is correct, then Ashtangis are suckers for sucking: We know that every day's practice is going to leave us with a sense of sucking, but that doesn't stop us from showing up on the mat everyday, and sucking anyway. And sucking is okay. Woody Allen famously said that 80% of success is showing up. Well, I think if he practices Ashtanga, he would be saying, "99% of success is showing up and sucking." If you don't suck (or think you don't, at any rate), then, well... then you probably don't need to practice Ashtanga. Yay!
In other news: Anybody know what happened to Susan? It appears that after posting her latest post earlier today, her blog kind of disappeared. I mean, the blog is still there, but it seems to have been emptied/deleted of all its posts. Susan, if you are out there reading this, can you respond (comment on this post, or otherwise get in touch with me)? I don't mean to sound self-important or anything, but I would really hate to lose touch with a fellow Ashtanga blogger whose writings I really enjoy.