The other day I was talking to two friends of mine about yoga. They thought yoga classes were something like boot camp. You get that leg straight. Straight means straight. Needless to say, they are guys. They looked very shocked when I said it was nothing like that; a yoga teacher does not make you do anything you don't feel comfortable with or that your body is not prepared for. You are always welcome to rest on your yoga mat. At this, one of them asked me "Why go then?"
For me that question has an easy answer: I love the practice. I love what yoga teaches me about myself and the tools it provides me with to better handle the world around me. But it also raises an issue: what happens when I don't feel like practicing? When do I know when it's time to rest and when it's time to push myself anyway? I do not know the answers to these questions, but one thing I learned after practicing yoga, even though I wasn't up for it in the first place, is this: I never understand why I choose not to practice, because after the practice my body is always filled with light and softness. Still I choose not to practice sometimes. It usually goes like this: in the morning I think that I would love a nice night practice, but come the night and I feel tired and sleepy. I opt to read or relax and eventually go to bed and sleep like a rock. The truth is I am very lazy.
And the dualism laziness vs. respect (in a way I believe it is ahimsa) is something I usually struggle with. I know that yoga teaches about our limits, through a regular practice we learn when enough is enough and when we can go just a tiny bit further. I also know that sometimes not to practice is my most gentle act towards myself. So the question is: what about when I'm being just plain lazy (human?) and I decide to practice "sleepasana"?
For this one I have an answer. It took me a while to get there, to understand how this process works - at least the theoretical part. And I have nailed it down to two main aspects.
1. Sometimes I really do need to rest. Some weeks I work a lot, I barely have decent meals because there's so much to do and my body does need its rest. My body feels sore, I get grumpy and only ask for two things: my bed and silence. And that's OK. Sometimes it really is OK for me to respect what I believe is best for me. This is also where ahimsa comes into play. Ahimsa is usually translated as non-harming, not causing pain. And this is what happens when I respect my body.
2. I give it a try anyway. I don't feel like practicing but I still unroll my mat and see what happens. If my body really isn't up for it, I'll know and I'll also know when it's time for me to stop and to congratulate myself for at least trying. But I might be surprised. I might actually do a complete class. Maybe I won't have great balance or strength, but I might push myself to the point of transformation and be able to go beyond the obstacles my mind has created. For me, it means I have reached that phase where I can move out of my well-known and cosy comfort zone and exceed my expectations. My ego does not wish me to follow the path of transformation because it means I'll pay less attention to it, so it plays powerful mind games with me. But I shall persevere. And it will happen as I start paying attention to the signs my body gives me. It happens if I am mindful.
Yoga endangers my laziness issues because it allows me not to practice, given that I choose from a place of kindness and self-respect. So why do I go to yoga classes if I can just lay down and rest? Because I practice yoga for its many benefits, I choose to be healthy, both in my body and mind. I choose to have a strong and pain-free body and a mind that I like to think is getting rid of old patterns and moving forward. I choose to practice yoga not because it makes me a better person but simply because it helps to uncover who I truly am.