This will be my ninth year of practicing yoga and feels like “I’m getting the hang of it”. It’s been said “it takes 1,000 days learn something and 10,000 days to know something well. Okay, I get it now.
I’m done yoga in the heat, the cold, in the rain, while sick and I’ve even done yoga with pneumonia (NOT RECOMMENDED). So I can say “yeah, I do yoga”. But this ability to do yoga isn’t really what I’m talking about, since yoga or any other discipline, isn’t about DOING SOMETHING; it’s about BECOMING SOMEONE, becoming who you actually are.
MASTERY of any skill, discipline, training or school has to do with two things:
1. Facing yourself
Facing yourself is hard. It’s complex and scary and if any of my teachers were reading this they’d be laughing their as**s off because I’m sure they never would have believed I’d made it this far. (I’m a little impatient… okay a lot impatient) I like simple, I like easy and yoga is neither of those. Since the very first day I took a class I knew this would be something I would do for life… then things got ugly.
My very first class, I think I made it standing up a whole 10 minutes before I was completely exhausted from the heat. My muscles were not ready for the pounding I gave them and the humiliation of being a ‘former star athlete’… my ego was crushed. It’s probably a good thing my first class was so difficult. Things that come easy are easily dismissed, at least for me. The real work began when I understood the heat, my body, the movements and then the boredom. Boredom can be a tricky thing to understand, but I was committed.
The day you see yourself is the day it ALL comes together. I was practicing with a student, just a normal day, and realized that life was okay. In that moment, I understood the purpose of my practice was to practice. The movements flow. It didn’t matter whether they are pretty or not, precise or not, perfect or not, PERFECTION IS A PATH… NOT A DESTINATION. There will always be room for improvement, refinement and evolution but this is where my yoga is today and it’s good.
Elegance is easy. It requires that you do things precisely and without thought; the movements are embedded in the memory of your muscles and thinking just gets in the way.
Elegance is also something of a foreign concept for most Americans. We draw this from our history of rejecting all things European, which was necessary in our infancy as a country. We were doing something new that had never been done before. And creating something from thin-air like democracy required we reject all known things and create. I think it worked pretty well, but there is a down-side.
We now have created a habit of rejecting anything that is known like art, culture, music and simple beauty and replaced it with rough, fast and profitable.
In addition to yoga, I have also taken martial arts for years. It wasn’t until I discovered yoga that I finally understood the purpose behind practicing the same martial art forms over, and over, and over. The purpose is simple… elegance.
I recently attending a weekend training, one of the classes I attended was on hojujitsu (the art of capture and subduing your opponent with a rope). It a martial discipline and skillset that is still taught in many martial art styles and to the Japanese police force. It was tons of fun to learn, good self-defense training and I highly recommend learning it if you can find a class offered in your area.
In the history part of the class, I learned that in feudal Japan, there were as many as 150 of these types of schools and they were all different. The schools, regardless of individual technique, operated on 4 principles:
1. The person must not be allowed to escape
2. There must be no permanent injury or death
3. You must never allow anyone to see how you made the ties
And the most important…
4. THE TIES MUST BE BEAUTIFUL AND ELEGANT
Let’s think about that one for a moment. If you added the words, “beautiful and elegant” to whatever it is that you were doing, would it impact HOW you were doing WHAT you were doing? It does for me. Perhaps we need to add in some beauty and elegance into our daily lives and activities.
The media and the advertisers aren’t going to tell you, “you need elegance’; they want you to watch the ugliest and most base things humans do because it’s good for their ratings. The makers and manufacturers of products are going to produce things as cheaply as possible that will wear out, break down or “go out of style” so they can sell you the latest, greatest widget next week or next year. There is no longer a focus on doing something well or creating something that is functional as well as beautiful and elegant.
This is one of the reasons that I studied NLP and later, hypnosis. I wanted something that worked well, was repeatable for most people and the changes they received were pain-free, relatively quick but most of all… they were elegant. In whatever you do… there is always time to do things right.
Practicing any skill isn’t always the most fun but MASTERY IS ALWAYS WORTH DELVELOPING. And on those days when you’re having a tough time remember what my teacher always said, “this is where your yoga is today”… those words apply to every context in my life.
Michael Harris, PhD is Consulting Hypnotherapist, Fitness, Life and Business Coach. Who specializes in Mind/Body healing, personal performance, conflict resolution and life planning.