"Getting stuck" is a broad term with no particular Sanskrit
equivalent, but it is a yogic concept
through and through. I'm stuck
I limit myself to narrow concepts of how things are or ought to be,
to concepts of what constitutes progress. Getting stuck doesn't just
being brought to a
standstill, or reaching a plateau and not being able
to climb higher. Limited ideas of progress get me
stuck in the wheel
of repetitive patterns, going forward but nowhere new.
yogi about his greatest teacher, and you're likely to hear a tale of an
injury that stopped him in
tracks. Setbacks move us forward. Why? Because they bring to our
back to ourselves to see
we have been neglecting in our quest for progress. Yoga is such an
process of growth and expansion that whatever we neglect within
will ultimately hold us back, acting as a tether that
us galloping in circles. The shock of a setback brings us to realize
while we may have been
our routine, we have strayed from doing our yoga.
case the wake-up call came literally with a knock on the head. In a
practice session we had
working on backbends, and the leader of the session announced that we
do drop-backs. (A drop-back is to start from a standing position and
over backwards, dropping into a full backbend by reaching back and
on your hands.) This is not something I have any particular problem
though mine are not the most elegant backdrops. But on this day my
just wasn't in it. I went ahead anyway, mostly because everyone else
doing it -- after all, this was a group practice meant to challenge and
move us forward. I coaxed myself with the theory that perhaps doing a
of them would spark the enthusiasm I was as yet lacking. I resigned
to it, and proceeded. On the first try I didn't open enough with my
was late with my hands, and landed pretty much on my head. This didn't
cause any great injury since I did manage to catch well enough with my
hands to muffle the impact, but it did give me an opportunity to sit
watch the stars, and consider what had just happened.
I attempted it when my heart wasn't in it? What had been the point?
is yoga, and a yogic challenge takes us forward when it's met with the
heart, not just the head. You have to want the challenge because it
you, because your focused effort gives you a taste of the goodness of
Yet I had
my heart behind in the rush to keep up, so it wasn't there when I
it -- and my head got its just reward.
days, when I feel some resistance to doing a pose, I pause to ask what
I really want from this
When I focus on the inner experience rather than the ambition to
a particular pose,
resistance is easily overcome and the challenge met with greater
energy and patience than if
simply forged ahead for the sake of the discipline. Other times I just
know it is better to set the
aside for another day.
when a teacher cajoles me to go deeper or stay longer in a pose, my
reply is, "I'm not
my yoga for you" and I ask myself what I want to feel from the pose. If
my heart is there, the pose
If the heart is not, or the body is not ready to go that extra inch,
is no point in forcing it.
is of course nothing wrong with accepting encouragement or asking for
to experience a pose
deeply; but the desire has to come first from within, for the pose is
an expression of your
self. There is no yoga in being cranked into a pose.
celebrate physical accomplishments in our culture that, while hard-won
and a wonder to behold,
only temporary -- bright and glistening moments that quickly evaporate.
Yoga wants to show us what is lasting about ourselves, what is eternal
and indestructibly good. The body and the mind provide the tools
work with to recognize and live this truth, but the accomplishments of
the body and mind are not
point -- they are anecdotes illuminating a greater truth, the goodness,
resilience and strength of the
irresistible to focus on accomplishments. Accomplishments give us a
foothold for our sense of progress. But while we are directed by our
to make greater and greater advances, our goals also limit us, because
they represent what we think we lack; they often mirror our sense of
The moment we define our world by what we lack -- and indeed we do this
every day -- we are stuck, and progress in achieving our goals is no
progress at all, as long as the idea of this lack remains. Our goals,
when attained, do not finally satisfy that original sense of emptiness.
begins when we set up this sense of opposition, of division or duality
in our lives -- having and not having, winning and losing, success and
failure, peace and turmoil. This creeps into our yoga practice in a
of ways. It begins when we set our yoga apart from our lives. It can be
a relief to think of our practice as a refuge, as a moment for
away from it all. In fact it's such a relief that we often do achieve
of peace and stillness -- and then get frustrated when we (or perhaps
who know us) see that this pristine peace does not carry over into the
turbulence of the everyday; one minute we're serene and Buddha-like,
next we fly off the handle when things don't go our way.
too our schedule makes it impossible to fit our accustomed routine into
the day. Disheartened by such setbacks, we lose enthusiasm while
guilty and resentful all at the same time. It is a great discipline to
make our practice a sacred and inviolable time, but our frustration
the dichotomy will not go away until we find a way to make every moment
of our lives our yoga, for yoga is not time apart from the world, but
participation in the world.
more familiar strain of poverty-consciousness shows itself in our
the moment we judge our practice as 'advanced' according to the
of poses we have achieved, or our ability to hold them
impressive lengths of time. It's basic human nature to see things this
way; but yoga is meant to pull us
of this self-defeating perception of our practice.
the measure of your practice becomes your accomplishments -- and
when that leads to frustration or (God forbid) pride, the relevant
is this: are you doing your yoga for your heart or
your head? Are you more concerned for how you perceive yourself or for
how others -- your teacher especially -- perceive you, or for how you
feel inside? Success and accomplishment make us feel good, but which
of you is feeling good, and at what cost? Might there be an even deeper
and more steadfast way of feeling good through your yoga than what
been feeling until now? Can you feel as good even when you can't quite
do a posture -- or meditate -- to your satisfaction, or have you
the point of your practice? Does your standard of success have you
What might you experience by letting go of success?
has this to say: "Your right is to action alone; never to its fruits.
should the fruits of action be your motive" In other words, while we
the right to set our intentions and make an effort
we have no real entitlement to have things turn out just the way we
them to. Most of us know or acknowledge this truth on some level; few
us actually accept it.
strong medicine. The teaching demands our recognition that if we judge
the worth of our efforts by
outcome, we'll never be free of the gnawing sense of lack that makes us
feel we are less than we truly are. Outward success is never certain --
or lasting -- and for that reason cannot appease the sense of lack
that goads us to chase after success in the first place. Rather than
on the anticipated fruits of success in the future, we need to address
that sense of emptiness now.
would have us know that this sense of lack is a false premise on which
we're basing the argument for our lives, and we would do best to dispel
it with the truth. For genuine progress is not measured by outer
it is measured by our recognition and appreciation of our true inner
If we don't let go
expected fruits, dissolving our own picture of success or failure, we
little progress in that kind
Even our successes will remain tainted with a nagging sense of
achievements are fleeting and fragile, but the effort is not pointless.
Any effort toward mastery
lead us to draw upon the true source of strength and wisdom within each
of us -- and the more
and impossible the situation, the better. The moment of breakthrough
we draw upon a
power to get us through is a moment of grace, and that moment makes the
and worthwhile. The taste of this grace is what truly feels good. It's
that moment when we were truly in touch with our greater Self and our
power, so much so that the outcome doesn't even matter. In that moment
we experience what in yoga is called steady wisdom -- stitha prajna. We
draw upon the
and wisdom behind all accomplishment and we do not fear the outcome,
we no longer
to our limited ideas and instead make the leap into a higher way of
erasing our false sense
with our own understanding.
goal -- and measure -- of progress in yoga is to become established in
this steady wisdom. One of the great texts of yoga, the Yoga Vasistha,
summed up steady wisdom in a simple maxim for dealing with the events
our lives: whatever comes, let it come; whatever goes, let it go.
this teaching lies the
gained from yoga that we are already full and complete in our own
nature. We needn't fret about what will come to us, nor fear what we
lose; nothing that happens in the world can add to or take away from
we already are. To know and genuinely feel this sense of completeness
ease with the world is steady wisdom.
we handle the events of our lives as a play and participate fully;
we keep steady
knowing that there is the presence within the heart of a greater, wiser
Self. Let the body be
let it be supple; steady wisdom is to be free of the limitations of
and failure, but rather
with an awareness that welcomes and can deal with both, neither getting
too proud of success nor
disappointed with failure. It's a play, which if it has a purpose at
is meant to return us to our own
steadiness, so that we the actors may enjoy the play as much as its
(and even do a good deal of ad-libbing).
is at its heart a mysticism that turns our common way of perceiving,
and living our lives on
head, one that does not define progress in terms of success and
but instead defines progress
free from success and failure. Yoga teaches that we get unstuck by
put, remaining steadfast in our own wisdom while delving deeply into
Beyond letting go of ideas, beyond making the
still and thought-free, there is an experience of fullness, plenitude
enthusiasm within that the
of yoga describe as "purno-aham-vimarsha," the experiential awareness
in our innermost nature we are already perfect and complete. We always
have been, and always will be; there is nothing to achieve. We just
to entertain that understanding and become quiet enough to experience
even if just for a moment, and then gradually make it a steady state of
awareness through our practice. The texts of yoga say that this
is no further from you than your own breath. Just as your breath is
with you, so the experience of perfection is always close at hand.
of yoga is this: that we can step up to our mat -- and to our lives --
without expectation of
things will turn out, and with that finally begin to experience
as we truly are: light,
resilient, strong and supple in spirit, and fully open to each moment
grace as it comes.
the practice of yoga.
my Dog Pose today? I'm stiff and I feel goooood.