Today, I spent half of my practice in meditation and deep breathing and the other half in gentle seated and supine postures designed to relax and open my back, shoulders, neck, and hips. It was truly a practice of self-nurturing and self-care. It was exactly what I needed, today. It got me thinking about a valuable lesson that Yoga has for all of us.
In so many things we seek to do in life, there are prerequisites. Some of them are obvious, spoken right up front. Some of them are subtle or assumed. In almost every endeavor, there is a list of requirements we must (or think we must) meet before we begin. Whether it's a new job, a hobby, or a creative project. We must acquire the tools, or skills, respect, admiration of others, or even just the courage to begin. There is an expectation of how someone who does that job or that hobby must behave.
If you want be a public speaker, for example, there is an expectation of a certain amount of poise and grace under pressure, not to mention experience. If you want to paint portraits, it is expected that you have a steady hand, an eye for detail. If you want to be a bartender, it is assumed that you will be gregarious and outgoing, and have a good memory for drink recipes.
But here's the amazing thing about Yoga - there are no prerequisites. There may be some stereotypes, but yoga accepts you whatever your skill-set, flexibility, intelligence, level of ability, emotional state, strength, or personality. You may not know that about Yoga.... but it's absolutely true.
People are not simple creatures. How we feel and what feels best to us today may be different than how we feel and what feels best to us tomorrow. Our physical and emotional needs are in a state of constant flux. But with Yoga, it doesn't matter. All that matters, is that you bring YOU to your practice. What is important is taking the time to tune in to yourself and your own needs. One day, you might come to the mat ready to take on the world and find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would be capable of. And other days, it will be an enormous accomplishment just getting on your mat at all - and once there, you might need simply to sit, and breathe, and be. You can come to the mat feeling strong and open, or feeling sad and closed down. And no matter what state you are in before you begin your practice, you will leave transformed in some small way. What a magical experience this can be.
In a world chock full of assumptions and expectations, what a blessing it is that Yoga asks only one thing of us and that is to, simply, come as we are.