What Yoga Means To Me -or- Writing The Letter N

May 29, 2009

My parents laugh when they recount tales of my sobbing exclamations, “I’ll never be able to do it!! I’ll never be able to do it!!” but I have a more emotional reaction to the memories of my early attempts at penning the 14th letter of the alphabet.  See, I had L and Y down pat, and even E came after a while, but that damn N just wouldn’t come.  And I was cursed with TWO of them in my name! That diagonal line, the ups and downs – it was an incredible challenge.  I can still remember sitting at the dining room table, tears streaming down my little face, utterly convinced at my ineptitude at such a young age.

It was this particular memory that arose in therapy recently, as I sobbed at my inability to read fast enough to ingest all of the lecture preparation for this intense, yogic month of my life (it should be noted, classes had not yet even begun).  My supremely overdeveloped superego picked that little girl up from the dining room and set her wailing in the body of a 28 year old – entirely sure that this person I have become was, too, entirely unable to succeed.  And the greatest irony of it all?  This behavior illustrates precisely the opposite of what yoga has meant to me.

The eastern conception of “faith,” as I understand it from my studies of Buddhism, is a very different thing than in theistic spiritual modalities; faith is turned inward, rather than a belief in something external, it is instead the belief one holds in the self.  The answers lie within, and to have faith is to live in trusting the self to know its own truth and perfection.  Yoga, to me, means faith, both ideally and in action.

As an ideal, yoga – specifically what I know of the Tantric lineage – purports that we are all perfect already.  Though it is hard to live this belief at all times – especially in the midst of a western culture constantly telling us we’re too fat, too short, too brunette, or too old – the theoretical principle of basic perfection aids in the cultivation of faith.  Additionally, with its emphasis on presence and full experience of the current moment, yoga means that everything about right now is absolutely ok; even if it doesn’t feel that way, where you are is precisely where you are supposed to be, and you can rest in the knowledge that everything that’s lead up to this moment, is also just right.

In action, watching the dynamism and evolution my practice has undergone in the two-and-a-half years of its life is a pillar of strength in my belief in my body’s abilities.  Before coming to yoga, the thought of me, previously The Funny Fat Girl, standing on my head, supporting my entire bodyweight on my arms, or excelling at anything physical was positively unimaginable.  But hell now I’m training to teach others how to do this crazy stuff.  As a constantly advancing self-science, yoga regularly pushes my edges and has me ever looking forward in continued confidence that with time comes growth.  I will never forget the first time I teetered in Bakhasana and heard my quietest inner voice say “you can do this” and I achieved a couple seconds of balance.  That inner belief is the absolute meaning of yoga to me.

The good thing about this particular emotional memory from my childhood was that the story didn’t end there: it turns out I can, in fact, write Ns now, though some who have seen my handwriting might argue otherwise.  I am not inept, I do possess all the tools I need within me, and I will do exactly how I’m supposed to do at my first training, and that is perfect.  I will write all the Ns I need to write in due time.

And some day I’ll learn to believe all of that.



  1. Maybe the some day never comes, and we spend our whole lives practicing to overcome self-doubt but never achieve the untroubled faith or calm.

    That is also perfection, no?

  2. absolutely. great point

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