I told a new friend of mine recently that I’ve been doing yoga for 21 years now and that I’m becoming a certified yoga teacher. Her response was “Wow, you must be really good!” I think I said some false humble thing but that question has stuck with me for the last couple of weeks. What does it mean to be good at yoga? I can’t do handstands and compared to most yogis I see posting pictures and videos on Instagram, I’m not that flexible and definitely not that strong. So am I good at yoga?
The more I’ve thought about this the more I’ve toyed with the idea that being good at yoga really just means being good at listening to your body. If that’s my operating definition than I guess the honest answer is that I’m often not very good at yoga. Sometimes I back off of downward dog when my injured shoulder gets pinchy feeling and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I back off of a twist if I notice my breathing getting constricted and sometimes I don’t.
I let a shoulder injury get the better of me a few years ago and stopped doing anything physical (very unlike me). Since I snapped out of the lethargy I’ve been working to get stronger (progress is slow given everything else that fills my days, but it is still progress). Don’t let atrophy happen to you!! I want to be at a point where I’m working on more challenging poses but I’ve found beauty in getting back to the basics, in taking the time to do a twist with good posture and to feel the difference over time, in focusing on my alignment in downward dog and in really releasing into child’s pose. Yoga doesn’t have to be flashy or impressive. It can be subdued and therapeutic. In fact, in my experience, it can be almost anything you need it to be.
I’ve now walked on a yoga path for more than half of my life (just) and am grateful for how my practice has shifted to fit the phases of my life if only I have the patience to recognize MY path.