When I first heard my teacher Ingelise talk about “the lunacy of trying to be better,” I was not convinced. Of course we try to be better, don’t we? If we weren’t trying to be better, then we wouldn’t come to class, and we wouldn’t practice. But that was at least a year ago. Now I see the wisdom of her words.
Of course those of us who love yoga want to improve our poses. But we cannot “be better.” We can only be as we are in this moment. The more you want to “be better,” the less capable you are of being present.
As soon as you try to “be better,” in a pose, you have divided yourself into a mind that directs and a body that obeys – or doesn’t. You’re attempting to live as an improved future version of yourself. But that self doesn’t exist, and never will exist. You will never be practicing yoga in the future, only in the present.
The irony is that if you drop the idea of improvement, and immerse yourself in sensation, improvement is automatic. The more you let go of judgment and attachment to results, the freer you are to experience the pose.
This is why long holdings are so beneficial. We need time to gather the pieces of our shattered awareness and place them in just one spot. We need time to enter the pose, doing the actions we know will take us in, and then, at the end of actions, we need to pause, to stop doing and just be.
I was raised on the refrain: “Good, better best, never let it rest, until your good is better and your better, best.” And although my brother and I fought it off with, “Bad, worser, worst, never call a hearse, until your bad is worser, and your worser, worst,” the message stuck with me.
Now I’m learning to let go of better, and of doing. It’s not easy. But one day I hope to find myself in a place beyond the doer, and become awareness itself, which is, after all, the whole project of yoga.
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