“I am not good at Yoga. I am not advanced. Is Yoga hard?”
If I had to do a scientific study (hmmm maybe, I will) on the very first sentence yoga students say to me, these three sentences would be in the top three. It is said that first impressions are lasting impressions. Now, I feel that I have a mindful practice, and I also like to seek the truth. Therefore, I can usually see through these statements (or dissolve them if you will, and we will below). It makes one wonder why all the self-deprecation.
A second pattern that “jumps” out at me is the “trigger words” good, advanced, and hard. These words have highly subjective meanings in our dualistic world (it’s all relative). For example, “Is yoga hard?” Well, this depends on the meaning of “hard.” In fact, when we begin practicing mindfulness, our first response will become “it depends, what do you mean by…” This lead-in is a beautiful gateway to empathy! We start trying to understand what people mean to say.
The meaning of Advanced Yoga Practitioner has to be one of my favourite discussion topics. In the traditional Yoga context, take the Gita, for example, an “Advanced” practice in the Gita wouldn’t even make sense in today’s popular view of yoga. So using the lead-in from above, my follow-up question could be, “What do you mean by advanced?” I typically receive “I can’t do a headstand.” Since Mokṣa or liberation is the ultimate goal of a Yoga practice, being able to perform a headstand is not a requirement. Nor necessarily regarded as “advanced.” Case-in-point: in one class, someone asked me “When will I become enlightened?” I responded, “Can you give up all judgment right here and now? Once you can do this, you will be a liberated being.” Letting go of judgment, especially judging yourself, is an advanced practice IMHO. Think of it, there are many people that can perform a headstand. But how many people can detach from judgment.
Note: Judgment, in this case, is using stereotypes, biases, generalizations, etc. Detachment, in this case, is not clinging on to stereotypical judgments as a belief system?
“The best yoga practitioner is the one having the most fun.”
Lastly, what does good mean? Touching your toes can be considered good, if not great, to the majority of people in the world. Again, it’s all relative. One of my favourite scenes from the movie Step Into Liquid is the part where big-wave surfer, Keala Kennelly is asked: “Who is the best surfer?” Keala replies, “The best surfer is the one having the most fun.” Keeping along those lines, A good yoga practitioner is one who is having fun. Therefore, the best yoga practitioner is the one having the most fun.