A friend and colleague has said that, rather than practising yoga to achieve a perfect posture, we should be aiming to be nicer people.
As simplistic as that sounds, it’s not simple.
The loftiest goal that I have for myself is to live life in love, i.e., to be a loving person. The trouble with having a high aim is that it makes an annoying foil for all opposing qualities. When I am grumpy, unfriendly, judgmental, and reactive, as I inevitably am, those moods show up in stark contrast to my niceness.
I had an argument with my dear husband yesterday (he wasn’t showing up for me at the time as dear). It felt awful, but what saved the day was remembering my practice of being loving. It took a while to get to a kindlier state, but I did, and he did. Disagreements are never really about what you think they are anyway.
Repeatedly practising a technique or a stage of development leads to steadiness, it’s said in Patanjali’s Sutra.
I like the story told about the ballerina Margot Fonteyn, who, at the peak of her career, still attended class every day. She said, “Miss one class, and you will notice it. Miss two classes, and your teacher will notice it. Miss three, and the public will notice it.”
I may never be completely free from being tetchy or ill-humoured, but what I’ve noticed over the years is that, when I’ve strayed from being loving, I’m able to find my way back to being in my heart with greater acceleration. It’s just too painful from being away from home.
Tatra sthitau yatno ‘bhyasah
Practice is basically the correct effort required to move towards, reach and maintain the state of yoga.*
*Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: An Introduction, translation and commentary by T.K.V. Desikachar