It is rare a Sunday conference passes by without one of Sharath’s great little tales. My favourite has to be his description of the practice of yoga as the sea. It is easy to merely sail along the surface of the water, to provide the illusion of living via the principles of yoga. But to really experience yoga one must dive into the depths of the ocean, immersing oneself and discovering the true wonder and beauty of the yoga practice.
Diving into the ocean means saying goodbye to the world above the water’s surface. Sailing along the waters is a safe option, a comfortable medium between the realities of the modern world on the land and the truths to be discovered within the ocean’s mysterious depths. Sometimes I feel I am only dipping my head in the water. I see a vision of what lies beyond and it is exhilarating but terrifying. I lift my head back out the water and swiftly return back to what I know, what is predictable, even if it is trivial and full of the same.
On the surface my yoga practice has progressed beyond my expectations here in Mysore. As Sharath has allowed me to almost complete a full primary series practice (excluding Setu Bandasana – a welcome blessing!) I am enjoying and cherishing my yoga practice. And yet I feel like a fraud, not only because of my sloppy bhujapidasana and my clumsy supta kurmasana, but because I feel I am simply sailing along, too scared to dive into the abyss below.
Why the fear? It is often difficult to be an ashtangi in these modern times. That may sound horribly pretentious, and the truth is it has always been difficult to be an ashtangi, a yogi. For a yogi essentially has to renounce the expectations of the society in which he/she lives. It means making sacrifices that very few will understand or appreciate. It means a personal struggle to battle against old demons and to let go of habitual obstructive patterns.
The fear is thus one of truly setting out on one’s own and it is a solitary existence. To swim to the bottom of the ocean is a journey one must make alone. No returning to the surface for air when things go awry, or when the waves feel too heavy. And what will one discover? That is the tantalizing unknown and every experience will be unique to each individual.
And so today I make a vow to dive into the depths, shedding myself of the fears, bad habits, irrational attachments, and foolish mistakes to truly experience the sea inside.