The practice is not downward facing dog.
The practice is not ragdoll.
The practice is not stretching hamstrings, strengthening quads.
The practice is love. The practice is learning how to love.
It is messy; it’s beautiful in its nonconformist way. It’ll break you down – visible in the sweat, audible in the huffing of breath.
The practice is not utthita hasta padangustasana. The practice is not standing split or reverse half moon. It’s not a pigeon in which both hips hit the floor. The practice is not looking beautiful while you transition from chaturanga to updog, or feeling invincible in warrior II.
The practice is love. The practice is learning to look for love.
It’s not Lululemon; it’s not fitting into Lululemon or working at Lululemon or dropping a size in Lululemon.
It’s not juice cleanses or clear skin, not memorizing flows or matching a song to a sequence.
The practice is not narcissistic self-improvement. The practice is not self-aggrandizing. The practice doesn’t exist for you.
It does not exist to make you your ideal, fantasized self. It does not exist to coat you in self-concern, to wrap you more tightly in worry.
The practice exists so that you can learn to love. The practice is love. It’s learning how to love.
Self-criticism has no purpose here. No trying to be somebody else. No light at the end of the tunnel: there is no promise you’ll be slimmer, fitter, more adept.
It’s not about looking the part, acting the part. It’s not about “becoming a yogi.”
The practice exists so that you can exist for the rest of the world. The practice is unlearning what you know and undoing what you usually doso that you can be better.
The practice is love. It’s learning to practice love.
It’s learning to look for love in the most uncommon of places.
That softness – locate it regardless of color or creed. No matter how you feel, the tightness in the body, the churning mind you wake to, seek it. When you are lost, when you are afraid, when you don’t understand the teacher, find it. Find softness. Find love.
In every fold of clothing, in every open pore, in every imperfect, unbalanced move you make, find love.
In every stumble, every failed attempt, every awkward moment of your life, find love.
The curse words you utter, the judgmental condemnation, every time you lose patience with your child – when you lose hope and sight of the landscape, and for every animal abuser, pedophile, every person left to a life of drugs and crime, find love.
Find it in the most unreasonable of places – from your sweaty mat to dirty street corners, in meditation and in the midst of violent gangs, from the criminally wealthy estates of Beverly Hills to remote villages with no running water. Find it in injustice, find it in unfairness, in the hungry child and the obese fairground-goer, in the deranged and the selfish, the sick and the wanting, the helpless, the hopeless, the homeless and feared. Find it in those who buy their way out of guilt, yell their way out of shame, drug their way out of compassion. For those who condemn you, for those who cherish you, for those who cut you off and those who embrace you – find love.
The practice is not perfectionism. The practice is not perfectionism. The practice is love.
It’s about learning to love your own madness so that you can love the world in its.
And you will understand the world because you have learned to understand yourself.
And over and over, the practice will teach you, it will tell you: There is nothing that stands in the way. There are no conditions here.
Boo Geisse is currently finishing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and working for a literacy-based non-profit in Cleveland. In her spare time, she teaches and practices yoga, rides horses and chases orcas.
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The practice is not downward facing dog.