Because It Can’t
– And It Won’t –
Always Be About a Tight Asana
I was searching through my music a few days ago, looking for some fun tunes to play for class this week. I came across an old voice message – one I’d left for myself – and paused, wondering what could have felt so important or significant.
I decided to hit PLAY.
My own voice flooded the room, retelling a story from my teacher training. The woman who taught our anatomy hours divulged that her boyfriend, a long time ashtanga practitioner, had “just reached a point in his life” where jumping from Bakasana (crow) to chaturanga dandasana (low push up) was no longer something that served his body. He could feel that he couldn’t – or shouldn’t – make that transition anymore.
I remember clearly thinking “that sucks.”
Of course, I didn’t realize that I would come to that place as well.
And yet, one decade later, there I was. My body was always in flux, waxing and waning in the wake of multiple injuries. I felt my years of yoga in my head, shoulders, knees, and toes (knees and toes). My body was always in flux; postures came and went like the seasons. Each practice became a lesson in ahimsa, awareness and perhaps more importantly, checking my ego at the door.
A new student walked through the door of my class in NYC as I contemplated it all. She was a beautiful girl with a stunning practice; powerful, fluid and flexible. In that moment, she was every physical thing that I was not. My mind couldn’t help but wander to a place of melancholy with a tinge of sadness in my own Age and Aging; it felt as if I was seeing an old lover with someone new.
It was hard to find joy in her strength, happiness in her prowess, pleasure in her practice. My ego crawled from my belly to my heart and began squeezing with all its might.
And as you know, we can’t turn that off with a remote click. I think it’s human nature, at least in this time of all-consuming consumerism, to want it ALL – from the shiny new car to the overly flexible back. Coming from a place of love, detachment and kindness in the face of someone else’s fortune just ain’t easy.
My mind moved to the old me, the one who could do all those beautiful things. I remembered the elation I felt; the pure, unbridled giddiness of the experience.
I smiled. I had to let go. I realized THIS was the yoga.
The letting go.
Yoga is so much more than a physical practice and yet, all the pieces of the practice that are still there for us when the body begins to decline are the ones that get shoved into the backseat. But our bodies WILL change. Our practices WILL transform. What will we do then?
The answer, for me, is simple. If we want to continue practicing we need to shift our focus from the shock and awe of the physical pose to the inner work.
To the service of others.
My body, in this moment, is working well enough. Nothing has knocked me off the mat and out for the count. That being said, a laundry list of rotating injuries have impaired me just enough to shift my focus and make me question my motives.
In the past two years that I’ve been less “mat-centric” BUT I’ve done more yoga than maybe ever before in my life. My charitable work has taken me, and my teachings, into the lives and homes of beings SO in need of a mind, body, soul connection. My practice is in creation, with an intention to offer a better life experience for myself and for others.
Basically, it’s not about the tight asana anymore.
I know now that no one will remember the size of my leggings or how perfect my handstand was. No one will care. The memories worth taking along for the rest of the ride called life will be those of kindness and caring. Of food shared, animals rescued, good deeds done, stories told, hands held, rides given, meals serviced and moments shared.
Maybe they’ll remember tattoos and a big smile too.
Vanessa Van Noy has been teaching in the NY metro area for nearly 15 years. She has worked with pro and collegiate athletes , people with physical limitations, and everyone in between. She specializes in creating practices that are fluid, functional and fun. She encourages humor & compassion, perseverance & perception , love & laughter. Her training as a Certified Thai Yoga Massage Therapist allows her to be very hands on in her classes, using touch as a way to deepen a posture or just show a little love.
Vanessa’s classes are always a little bit different from the last. With music that motivates the body and lifts the spirit. Her class environment is conducive to laughing one moment, or discovering your true inner-self the next. It is always a flowing style, intelligently formulated to move toward some fabulous postures with comfort and ease. She will sprinkle some breath work, sometimes some Kundalini, being mindful of alignment and modifications to keep everyone safe while digging deep. Vanessa travels teaching workshops and retreats nationally, and world-wide. She also was selected for the Wanderlust festival in 2015.
Vanessa is the founder of “Headstands for Hunger “a annual yoga-based community event that feeds hungry people and homeless pets in Monmouth County NJ. Taking yoga off the mat is where its really at.[/box]
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