January 25, 2013

Lions, Fish, Practice & Permanence.


“The depth of the practice can’t be seen in asana. Somebody that can do a backbend and grab onto their ankles isn’t going to be further ahead in their practice than somebody who has trouble forward bending. That doesn’t make a difference—that’s not what the practice is about.” ~ David Robson

I am sitting in Ardha Matsyendrasana, or “Half Lord of the Fishes.” Fish are often associated with wisdom and being in the flow of life, and lions with power and courage.

I’m a big fan of symbology and synchronicity and noticing interesting patterns.

All week this week: lions and fish and fish and lions. (And as a somewhat astrologically curious girl who is a Pisces, Leo Rising, fish and lions are always fascinating.) Whether you believe in astrology or symbols, it would be worth having a little more of all of those characteristics.

The funny thing about a snapshot is that it is one split second in time.

It’s one second that shows so many things, but at the same time leaves so much out. I took this one (not during today’s practice…a few days ago) and I can immediately pick apart things that are “wrong” with my posture and alignment. But of course, we can’t really see much of the whole practice—or even the whole posture—from this one picture.

We can’t judge ourselves or others by one posture, one action, one day, one choice…can we?

I actually had an argument about this with my younger—but often wiser—brother yesterday. I often excuse the bad behavior of others saying that we are more than just the sum of our choices. When you look at a whole person, he is more than just his actions. My brother argued that our choices are who we are. We create our lives with our actions.

When we look at the primary series, each asana builds upon the one before it. Most yoga practices follow a sequencing of some sort. We can see the whole, but each piece is significant. I believe this is true in the rest of life, in addition to our yoga practice.

In my practice today, there were moments where I felt completely engaged and so solid. There were moments where I got distracted, thought of other things and inadvertently kicked over a glass of water. To look at any one of those moments—good or bad—apart from the whole would be misleading. Times when I had great form in Utthita Trikonasana aren’t a “better picture” of my practice than the time where I felt wobbly and tired.

So, I’ve learned (or re-learned, and will probably need to re-learn yet again) something new today: We may not be just one thing, just one snapshot, but we are the sum of what we’ve done.

The beauty of our practice is that we are creating permanent change.

I am not going to get bent out of shape about one spot in my posture above that is off, but I can learn from it. I don’t have to judge others based on one choice I disagree with, but it should make me pay attention to where it fits in the whole of their behavior. The practice of yoga and the practice of being a human being isn’t practice makes perfect. My voice teacher used to say it like this: practice makes permanent.

Our practice is beautiful when we are consistently creating changes for the better—on and off the mat.

According to B.K.S. Iyengar,

 “It is related that once Lord Siva went to a lonely island and explained to his consort Parvati the mysteries of Yoga. A fish near the shore heard everything with concentration and remained motionless while listening. Siva, realizing that the fish had learned yoga, sprinkled water upon it, and immediately the fish gained divine form and became Matsyendra (Lord of the Fishes) and thereafter spread the knowledge of yoga.”


May you have a swift downstream swim towards wisdom. May you have the regal courage of a lion.

May your practice make for permanent changes in your life.


What was your practice like today? Are you doing #yogaeverydamnday this month? Check back for my updates and follow along on Twitter @kate_bartolotta and Pinterest.

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