Lessons on ImpermanenceMay 24, 2022
Yoga teaches us lessons about impermanence, although it’s easy to gloss over them or even miss them completely.
Every day our yoga mats are reminders of impermanence. We start the practice fresh, stiff, and barely able to touch our toes. We finish practice sweaty, calm, having made all types of shapes that have come and gone. Both our minds and bodies feel different after we practice yoga, only to change yet again in a short time.
As Ashtangis we find ourselves attached to the idea of accomplishment in yoga, of making our way through the series, progressing as though it were a linear path. And of course, asanas do improve quickly at first. There is a steep learning curve. Initially, we grow tremendously in our ability and our understanding of the practice. Every day there is a new breakthrough.
Over the decades, our practices change. Improvements are incremental and often not noticeable. Instead of breakthroughs, practice becomes more about consistency, a deeper understanding of yoga, finding equilibrium and calmness of mind. Improvements become smaller and less common.
Experiencing notable improvements on a regular basis is a temporary phase. It might be a few years or a few decades, but if you practice yoga for the long haul, it won’t be the duration of your practice.
Impermanence is the nature of the human condition. We know this to be true, yet we resist it all the same.
If we are dependent on our yoga practices improving, we’ll never find lasting joy in practice. Our dedication and love of yoga will diminish. It’s when we are able to celebrate the practice that we have, the life that is already here, that we find the joy in what we are doing. And joy is the single most important component to a sustainable practice.
As Pattabhi Jois so famously said, “Do your practice and all is coming.” The only constant is change. There are inevitable ups and downs. There will be beauty and pleasure and pain and suffering.
On a personal note, I’ve had some tough lessons in impermanence lately. I was thrilled to be accepted into Richard and Mary’s month-long training this summer. And devastated to tear my meniscus and ACL while skiing in March. In April my heart broke to a thousand pieces when my cousin died in a tragic accident, and filled with love when Paul and I got engaged. Impermanence teaches us the preciousness of the moment.
My cousin’s death is still a shock to me, even though death is the only thing in life that we are guaranteed. Impermanence tells me that my grief will change, although his death will not. I want to mention the passing of my cousin Brent Rydin to you as a way to honor him. He was a gifted writer and over the past four years he edited countless essays and emails for me. Just writing this makes me wonder what I’m going to do without him. Here are some of my favorite posts that he helped me with that I want to share with you.
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