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Yoga: A Love Story

When you talk about love, it has to be unconditional. There is really no such thing as conditional love and unconditional love. It is just that there are conditions and there is love. The moment there is a condition, it just amounts to a transaction. Maybe a convenient transaction, maybe a good arrangement – maybe many people made excellent arrangements in life – but that will not fulfill you; that will not transport you to another dimension. It is just convenient-Sadhguru

The yoga sutras say that “practice is firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness”. It requires a long term relationship. A trip to the alter. There are even vows. The relationship must be honest, non violent,, celibate, non possessive and no stealing (yamas). The relationship must also have discipline, honesty, contentment, self study and be firmly connected with the divine (niyamas).

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Like all relationships,our relationship with yoga starts with infatuation. At first we only see its beauty and we love how it makes us feel. We eventually start to go steady. We practice yoga daily and if we miss one day, we feel as if something is missing. Then the serious dating begins.  We start to see a few of the ugly bits like soreness and frustration. It starts getting harder and harder to find that sweet spot we used to have in each and every class but it is doable and still mostly fun.

We finally decide to commit. This is the style of yoga that we want to spend our life exploring. Even with the ugly bits, we can’t be without it. We want to dedicate our life to it. To please her, we change how we eat and who we hang out with. We go to bed early so that we have enough energy for the intense physical experience of the yoga practice. We put a ring on it. We go to honeymoon in India, or to a workshop or retreat.  We look for a home  studio with a nice community in a decent neighborhood and sign up for the 12 month or 5 year unlimited. We start referring to ourselves as ashtangis or yogis. Some people even change their names. We say we are in love.

Many people go on to have long thriving  ride or die relationships with yoga. Through thick or thin, in sickness or health, they keep their vows and practice consistently  until the wheels fall off. Through the ups and downs, they stay true. They live happily ever after. The end.

Then there are the other relationships. After awhile, the yoga becomes boring. Cross fit is starting to look really sexy. Or maybe, the relationship starts to lack the ease it had at the beginning. It starts feeling like a lot of work. It seems impossible and never ending. You start looking for something a little easier that requires less commitment.  You could start walking in the park at your own leisure where you don’t have to think about the pressure of going deeper or performing. The park is beautiful all the time. You don’t have to deal with the ugliness you feel when yoga strips you naked.   Some people start to feel undesirable. Younger yogis are stronger, more virile and can do more.  You feel impotent. You can no longer perform at the same level. Maybe you and yoga split over financial strains. The yearly unlimited and the trips to Mysore are expensive and being with yoga in a tiny cramped space, without her make up,music,entourage, heat and sweat is a turn off.

 

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To have our own happily ever after with yoga, we have to know that our experience with her will change. As our relationship with yoga matures, the excitement will come and go but her rewards will continue to come. If we only see the beauty of her outer being, the asana, we miss the rewards that come from a deep relationship with her inner being. Because she is an extension of our spirit, the deeper we know her, the deeper we know ourselves. We have to be willing to be totally naked  and vulnerable before her. To hold anything back is to make the relationship shallow and weak. To fall in love, we have to fall.  Any hanging on stops the process. Just knowing her anatomy and loving her shapes, is to only know her surface. We have to know her deeply. We can never be free to fully love her if we are attached to her external conditions or appearance. Like an iceberg, the deepest parts of her are under the surface.

Happy Valentines Day 2016

 

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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