Happy Valentine's Day! I don't know if you celebrate Valentine's, but since many of you who read this blog practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, let me see if I can give an Ashtangic spin to this arguably most over-hyped and commercialized of holidays: May the flame of your love for the practice grow with each passing practice, and never burn out, whether or not you get to sixth series in this lifetime ;-)
Indeed, it may be that in the bigger scheme of things, it is really love of the practice that will decide whether we will continue our practice in spite of the many obstacles and pains, physical and otherwise, that we often encounter in the course of our practice journey. At a workshop a few years ago, David Williams told us that when he tells people that he has been practicing non-stop for more than 30 years, they usually respond, "Wow! You must have great self-discipline to be able to do this practice non-stop for so long!" But David thinks that the word "discpline" has a rather negative ring to it: To him, it implies that he is being disciplined for having done or not done something. He prefers to think that it is really love of the practice that brings him to the mat every day, rather than self-discipline.
But there are often times when it is difficult to see how love could really be what is motivating us to roll out the mat, especially during those days when we are tired or feeling low on motivation. Or during those times when we have to work with injury or some kind of physical limitation, when doing even the most basic of movements could bring pain. For instance, I once threw out my SI joint so badly that I couldn't move from updog to downdog without lower back pain. I eventually managed to heal myself by working on my uddiyana bandha and on the alignment of the toes, but in the process, it took a lot of trial and error to find a way for my body to move in a pain-free way through this most basic of transitions, and during that process, every error was a painful one.
Hmm... I guess I could have picked a more Yoga-Journal-friendly example to illustrate my point: This seems like the kind of example that some people out there might point to as a reason not to practice Ashtanga ("See, you practice this Ashtanga yoga, you get back pain... for what?! Shouldn't yoga be pain-free?"). Sounds also like good grist for the yoga-can-wreck-your-body mill.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is: How can we love this Ashtanga practice, if it brings us so much discomfort, and dare I say, pain? Is love enough to see us through this journey of practice, or is something more needed? If something more is needed, what is it? Grit? Courage? Fearlessness? Discipline? All of the above?