In moments of clarity, I sometimes realise that Ashtanga Yoga, at its core, is a trick that we play on ourselves.
The whole scenario; the progressive series, the self-practice style, the power dynamic that can develop between teacher and students, the ‘publicness’ of our struggles every day on our mats; it all feeds into the feeling that there is something at the end of it all that we are supposed to achieve. What are we trying to achieve? A particular posture, a feeling, a clear mind, a healthy body, an emotion, approval, enlightenment?
The longer I practice and the older I get, the more I realise that the whole thing is an elaborate hoax. There is nothing to achieve, nothing to prove, nobody to impress and nowhere to progress to.
All we are doing is moving, breathing and directing our focus on a particular thing. That’s all we have to do. The benefits of the practice lie in the doing of the practice. The practice itself is a joyful experience (or at least it should be). If it’s not then we won’t be able to sustain it for the decades needed to really see where it leads us.
There is no pot of gold at the end of the ashtanga yoga rainbow, no medal at the end. The very fact that we are lucky enough to have discovered this yoga practice is reward enough for me.
So we should enjoy our practice. It is not meant to create more suffering in our lives.
I think it bears repeating: There is nothing to achieve, nothing to prove, nobody to impress. In fact, there is nothing to do at all, just move, breathe and enjoy.
Alan Watts, speaking about education, careers and life in general, puts it better than I ever could: