“Nail in my hand
From my creator
You gave me life
Now show me how to live.”
Over the years, I have often tried to find someone to take responsibility for my life: rock idols, partners, personal trainers, yoga teachers, an endless list. I don’t think I’m the only one; it’s a human thing. We all, at some point, look for this kind of reassurance; often asking that a figure that we consider of some authority show us the way.
When I started practicing Yoga and meditation, I tried to pin a lot of responsibility on my various teachers. Unsurprisingly, real teachers will not entertain being your life crutch.
The reality is that ultimately it is down to us to make the big and small decisions in our lives; choosing a path, going on a retreat, decide whether to go deeper in a Yoga pose. A good teacher will give you pointers, guidelines, a framework for you to draw your conclusions; often they will act as a mirror, asking questions, probing you, so that you come up with your own answers.
Taking responsibility for our lives is a liberating experience, even if at times it can feel a bit intimidating or lonely. Prefabricated answers are like junk food, they may taste nice, they may make the hunger disappear temporarily, but ultimately they will not nourish us and help us grow.
Good ole’ Gautama himself urged us to question everything, to take nothing at face value, but to test it, see if it feels good, and only then decide whether to embrace it or not.
Even in asana practice, we must take responsibility for our own bodies. Asana teachers, as good as they may be, are not in our body. They can suggest, prod, encourage, correct, adjust – but we must be the ones to listen, to feel what’s going on in our body and our mind and make decisions on how far to push, where to stop.
I brutally failed to take my own advice just about a week ago. I had been practicing at the Saraswathi Jois shala in Mysore for over two weeks and one of her assistants encouraged me to get into Ardha Baddha Padmottānāsana, with the right leg bent. I knew I shouldn’t have done it, that knee has been giving me problems for a while, but I let my ego take over I guess, and I did try. She encouraged me to reach down to the floor with both hands and I did. It was at that point that there was a very loud “pop” – one of the tendons or ligaments in my knee I believe. Nothing broken, and it’s getting better, but it was a perfect example of where I should have stayed firmly in control of my practice and my body.
Oh well, I’ll try and do better next time!