Day 21: (non) Attachment to Progress

Like so many other days, Gates’ message to me today was so on target that it was almost ironic. Gates talks about our attachment to progress and results in our yoga practice, and says that they must be let go of. If we are attached to the outcomes of our yoga practice, we are missing the point. Indeed, I would agree. At the beginning of most of the classes I teach, I ask my students to notice what expectations they have of themselves that day. I ask them to notice what those are, and then let go of them.

I try to do this also. But I have a hard time not wanting to move forward, try new things and see what my body is capable of. There has to be some balance – on one hand, I want to allow myself a celebration, a moment or two of joy, when I finally find myself in an elusive posture. I also have to be able to recognize the difference between a celebration of the joy of finding myself in a new posture and the ego boost that happens when I realize I can add it to my list of party tricks. There is joy that comes from the heart, out of love – that “wow” feeling. And there is joy that comes from the ego, out of fear – “Just let (so and so) see what I can do in class. Now she’ll have to respect me.”
What’s ironic about this advice for me today is that I decided to video tape my practice. It was interesting to see a practice that I had only previously felt, or seen parts of in a mirror. It was hard not to get caught up in the little things – my arm is out of alignment here, my belly looks really awful when I’m upside down or I should really work on my handstand approach. The main motivation behind the video was to create new material for my blog posts and websites, and I should see it as that – as an aesthetic addition to a practice that feels good in my body and mind – rather than another sports video to critique.
Non-attachment to results is hard, especially in our culture, and I’m sure I’ll be working on this lesson for a long time. Some lessons, I have learned, like don’t look around the room and compare yourselves to others. And if you practice in front of a mirror, do so with compassion rather than judgement. If you can learn to truly have your own practice, in your own head and your own body, you’ll find a joy that comes loving and accepting yourself, treating your mind and body right and aligning yourself with the rhythm of the universe. It’s the joy that comes from love.

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