“When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing.” – Zen saying
The Virtue of Patience
Anyone concerned with powering through when trying deeper asanas inevitably learns from continued practice that the goal is not to achieve maximum flexibility to “properly” do a pose. As the late and infamous traveler Dan Eldon once said, “The journey is the destination,” in reference to the fact that he enjoys the act of traveling rather than having traveled, because of the joy of doing something he loves. Another way to put it: do you like having sex or do you like knowing that you’ve just finished having sex?
As with many things in life, patience and practice will help you refine your form, and the strength, physique, and health benefits derived from dedication are secondary. The problem is, due to the rampant impatience of modern life, results and immediate gratification take priority, reversing the value of patience.
Regular practice of yoga actually teaches you the patience to listen to your body, when it says, “I’m hurting,” or “I can’t stretch that far yet,” and in turn, that patience you learn thus translates to serenity and fortitude from gradual progress. The serenity you acquire from this is applicable to a simple truth that if you flow, you will know peace, and when you know peace, you have one key of self-mastery, which is ending the inner war of emotions within you.
Form and Function Over Beach Bodies Housing Insecure Souls
It may come as a surprise to many, but the vanity and pretensions behind that beach body or gym body, which have both been now been joined by the extremely inappropriately titled Yoga Body, are a sign of abstract value placed on possessing washboard abs or a six-pack. Recently, in The Guardian, an opinion was written about the buff bodies and the author’s preference to have “normal” bodies over those sculpted from hours at the gym. Granted, it’s only an opinion, and truth be told, there is an art and beauty behind weight lifting that should not be ignored or disrespected in any way just because some of us might feel we are superior for doing yoga.
We can agree that we strive to have bodies to share that bear the fruits of our hours of effort, whether it is through yoga or lifting weights at the gym. The problem that comes from popular culture’s glorification of the yoga, gym, or beach body is that people are focused on the goal rather than the process—something that we yoga students at least know is completely not in line with the teachings of yoga.
Ask yourself this: do you rush to a yoga class to get in your daily training, or when at the top of a mountain, would you go into your practice spontaneously?
Whichever works for you is fine, because many people do yoga for their own reasons, but to follow the classical way, we should do it not only because there are practical applications in other areas such as strength, stamina, physique, and overall health derived from the benefits of yoga, but because yoga itself is a way of living.
It is important to be true to yourself, and if there is one thing you can derive from the philosophy of yoga, it’s that patience comes not only for yourself, but for the views and choices of others, especially with their interpretation and goals of yoga. This is why even on the most basic level, people like to treat yoga as a stretch (although without meditation, it probably shouldn’t be called yoga anymore) and it works, while at the higher levels, the translation of yoga is “yoking together the mind and body” for health.
When mind and body unify, yoga is not just something you do and then go on with your life—yoga is your life, and the patience from yoga is not just for yourself when training, but every day is an opportunity to train yourself by literally and figuratively being flexible with life’s many nuances and colorful people around you.