Yoga people, at least those who can afford to attend yoga conferences, tend to be toned, tight and taut, bedecked in flattering outfits that emphasize their toned tight tautness to perfection (and yes, I can be an alliterate fool). Much as I tried to remain indifferent to the physical beauty surrounding me this past weekend, twinges of body envy smacked my ego around a bit.
I attempted to overcompensate, somewhat, by purchasing my own cute yoga outfit, one that provides the illusion of lithe leanness: a strappy purple camisole top emblazoned with the crown chakra symbol and well-fitting black pants (finally!) sporting a tie-dyed, earth-friendly peace symbol on the left ankle. My consumer-greedy self has been kicking my frugal self ever since for not snapping up a few more outfits: the $10 top usually retails for $40; the $25 pants sell for $75. But even though the prices were exceptionally reasonable, did I really need more?
Conferences such as these confuse my senses, marrying crass consumerism to spiritual soul-searching. I fall victim and prey to both: I want both, I desire both. Who wouldn’t covet the cute organic tie-dyed yoga bag, the extra-sticky, ultra-cushiony mat, the perfect egg-shaped, lightweight block? And the jewelry…good gosh, I go weak-kneed bananas over yoga jewelry (and here I confess again, slightly shamefacedly: I also bought a pair of brushed golden Ganesh earrings, light, luscious and lovely, because goodness knows, I could use a little obstacle-removal in my life).
But deeper in my soul, I yearn for serenity, peace, joy, the higher plane, renunciation of all unnecessary material possessions. And so, excitement over my gleeful material purchases receded as I ferreted out a bounty of workshops and classes that moved me, taught me, inspired me. I emerged from the conference mentally engaged and physically exhausted: my inner fire was awakened through Rod Stryker’s ridiculously challenging poses (can you say…peacock face plant?); my hazy, unformed ideas were sharpened and clarified through Dhamra Mittra’s gently humorous teachings; my hips relaxed and opened so much in Rodney and Colleen Yee’s class that by the end, my foot easily slipped behind my head…and that’s just for starters.
For many years, I’ve sought to integrate my spiritual growth into my everyday life, to create my perfect “rajastic” practice. Naturally, I aspire to be the best yogini ever (which I realize in itself is a product of ego), but I cannot seem to renounce the pleasures of the flesh. Wait. That’s not entirely true. I don’t want to forsake my earthly delights, from flavor-rich foods to scalding hot showers to passionate sex to really cute earrings.
Last week, in our teacher training morning session, we discussed methods of reaching higher, taking ourselves further toward samadhi (bliss). The path to samadhi is smoothed through certain physical actions, such as eating bland foods or taking brief lukewarm-to-cold showers, so as not to diminish or disturb the aura.
I listened, I absorbed, I believed.
But then, during the lunch break, I sneaked across the street, purchasing a fabulous spicy tuna roll with extra wasabi and pickled ginger. I devoured my meal, thoroughly enjoying the fiery tingles on my tongue, but…I also remained hidden, eating alone, feeling just a bit uneasy. Later that evening, sore from the long day of postures and sitting, I stood in a steamy shower for an obscenely long time, notching the dial higher and hotter instead of lower and cooler.
I wondered: Why am I deliberately fighting against the lessons I just learned?
I have no answers…yet.
But at least I’ve come to accept that I will never be the perfect yogini; heck, I may never even be a competent one. I will always and forever be the “me” yogini: the one who carries good intentions and blessings in a full and well-meaning heart, but also the one who can’t resist a deliciously zesty meal (with extra hot sauce) or a bubbling hot tub, the hotter the better, preferably enjoyed under the stars with a beloved one.
Alone, I am, for the most part, free from ego and the material concerns that accompany it. I tend to practice my solo sun salutations wearing nothing but my wide-open heart, body free and exposed to the warmth and air, caring not one whit about my outer appearance, focusing instead on my inner one.
Yes, on the inside – where it matters most (to me) – my personal practice and my meditations strip away pretenses and material desires, sometimes (rarely) carrying me to a place outside my physical self, where my soul unfolds, opening to the heavens and to infinity. At these times, I reach deep into my core, searching for my true spirit, and there I stoke my inner radiance, my agni (fire), my light, often clumsily, but with pure intentions. And while I may never ascend to the highest heights, the lessons learned slowly edge me ever closer, propelling me toward a place where transcendence intersects with rich chocolate cake, forming my own unique, personal and perfect version of samadhi.
And so, somewhere within, I will find my balance. I will find my peace.