I am increasingly put off by the portrayal of the yoga practice in our society; bare bottomed bendiness promoting the idea that yoga is really nothing more than a beauty cult meant just for the lithe and lovely. I am very disinterested in images of yoga poses, unless I am studying anatomical alignment. To me the onslaught of semi-seductive images feels a bit like voyeurism. Like looking at images of a person praying- in the nude. This phenomenon is a cultural perversion of a practice that I know and love and I am compelled to restore what has become sexualized and self promoting back to the sacred and universal. I want to right this misrepresentation of my beloved practice- a practice I believe anyone has access to no matter their size, shape, age, level of mobility, or wardrobe.
Yoga poses are simply the medium, not the masterpiece itself. They are about sensation rather than shape and therefore the art is what is happening within. The external image is just a tool. Imagine going to an art museum only to see the artist sharpening their pencils rather than to marvel at, contemplate and partake in the actual work of art. We do not stare at Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and ask to see the brushes he used unless we are training in the technique. We do not fall into an O'Keefe and inquire about her canvas stretching method before we can enjoy the profound effect of her work.
To get on board with this paradigm shift of our cultural concept of yoga, it is crucial to understand that the practice of hatha yoga (the asana practice) was only conceived as a means to an end and the end was to be able to meditate and to sit to meditate. If one was able to sit and meditate, there really was no need for the hatha yoga practice. Yoga is a means to an end. This is why I get frustrated when we celebrate the execution of the postures as if the postures are the end goal. They are not. The postures are the maneuvers we perform to help us sit and ultimately still the mind.
This topic feels so relevant to me as a teacher who continually has students comparing themselves to each other, taking classes they are not ready for, and attaching themselves to the outcome of their practice, for better or for worse. To me, this feels like an artist obsessing over her tools instead of being in the process of using them, making mistakes, diving into the unknown and learning from outcome. A perfect pose, is not one that meets the apex shape necessarily. It is one in which the practitioner is riding the crest of the wave of awareness within- not overwhelmed or bored with sensation. It is one in which the practitioner is equal parts effort and surrender. It is one the is sustained by and steeped in consciousness. The medium is the pose itself. Which gets us, if we're successful, to the masterpiece which is union on the individual self with eternal consciousness. Or, put simply, when one is riding the crest of the wave of eternal presence, breath by breath. This art cannot be photographed. It can only be enjoyed by the maker herself.