By Jessica Powers
There was this gem that I used to pass on my walk into work, written in chalk on the a-board out from a local yoga studio that always flustered and upset me:
Healthy Yogi = Happy Yogi
Um, excuse me, isn’t my yogic happiness supposed to stem from overcoming my identification with my body? Happiness regardless of whether I’m healthy or not?
Aren’t I working to identify and then release my I-amness, my ahamkara? Haven’t you people read your Patanajali?
Right, okay. You are saying that life is better when we take care of our body. I get that. I just think it stinks to promote an activity designed to take us further than the body by equating the body to the whole person.
What if I am in an accident or develop an autoimmune disease? Am I excluded then from this happy yogi state because my body is compromised?
Health in the body is not entirely in my hands, even as I push them into the mat in down dog.
Indeed, as I push my hands down into the mat and lift up into wheel pose there is always a possibility that some fractional stress will hit its utmost point and I’ll collapse in pain, harmed by my health quest through yoga.
Where’s my happy then?
What about as I age?
In our society health equates to youth and youthfulness.
My hairs are coming in white and grey and up front. I’m not going to dye over them. And while I use sunscreen (almost religiously) and I love my eye cream (organic carrot coloured stuff that smells amazingly of chamomile) I am aware that there are more lines and creases each year.
My body is changing. It has more daily ouches and squeaks. It’s not young the way we think of young.
Okay, okay, I give. I get it. Maybe I’m just being picky.
I will let the equation of health and happiness pass. Easily done since the new owners came in and took away the chalkboard. (I guess they aren’t hipsters and don’t have time for Pinterest lessons on chalk handlettering.)
Now when I walk to work in the morning I giggle at this new, eternal a-board message printed on some material for shop displays and put out daily:
Yoga Classes Daily – Pick up a leaflet or inquire within
Inquire within? Is that supposed to be sarcastic?
Sure, I’ll enquire within. With pleasure. However, I’ll do that at home in my pjs, wrapped up in the throw blankets off the couch as I roll around on the floor listening to what my body wants next. That’s my internal inquiry. Thanks anyhow.
Despite all that, can I just say how strong my urge is to “inquire within” this studio about the meaning of my life? Just like that.
Hi, your sign says to inquire within. My inquiry is this: what is my purpose in life?
Imagine the face on whatever lovely soul was working reception at a yoga studio to that interaction.
I giggle as I read the sign, imagining it all, walking fast because I’m probably running late. Embracing the giggle I realize this is why I have no yoga studio to call home.
Not only because I’m not interested in pushing physical limits and doing fancy-schmancy arm balances or ‘advanced’ poses.
It’s because what most yoga studios are selling is not for me at this time.
My years in yoga classes have taught me to make my home within. To listen there and respond to what I hear and see and feel.
The classes I have taken built my inner compass and my understanding that I am more than my body.
I am more than my name, my citizenship, my current address or job; more than my family expects me to be, and more than even my friends encourage me to be. I’ve become more than the yoga trainings I’ve taken, more than the religious paths I’ve explored, more than the dreams in my head.
Most of all I giggle because I can recall the wild love affair of yoga that led me here and I think of the students that will walk in that yoga studio door and pick up a leaflet to find out how to be healthier.
Thinking of them I wonder what they will come to see as happiness, and what they will hear whispering within themselves in the quiet space between breaths.
The journey has to start somewhere.