“The only goal is to breathe”

While positioned in a Warrior II pose the other morning, I felt inspired to write a blog about yoga. I’ve been going through a period of “writer’s block” or a case of “the blank page,” as they express this sentiment in France, and I needed something easy or obvious to talk about. The yoga teachers are always integrating narratives into the beginning or end of their class, and even the comments they make throughout the course of the ninety-minute class often strike me as funny or inspiring.

“There are no goals in yoga,” said the teacher at my Saturday morning class, “Well, no. I lied. There is, actually, one goal.”

I thought he was going to say that the only goal is to improve, that yoga, like life, is a process that is never perfect, and never complete. Apparently, even something as immeasurable and vague, as “improving” was too ambitious.

“The only goal in yoga is to breathe,” he concluded, “If you’re not breathing, or if you’re not maximizing your breath, then adjust the pose so that you can breathe. You can lie on your back in corpse pose the entire time as long as you breathe. That is the most important thing.”

I am not the most athletic or coordinated person by any means, but I find myself being able to (overtime) achieve more difficult balancing poses by focusing and staying in the moment (being present or “mindfulness” is another big concept that the yogis love to talk about). The teachers are always reminding everyone to find a dristi or focal point to stare at on the wall, to breathe deeply, and to not look around the room to see what other people are doing. This is actually quite difficult to do, or to avoid doing.

We are always looking around to see what other people are doing; so much that we’re not consciously aware of it most of the time. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, or in real life, when we look at others in the same physical space and make comparisons. It’s difficult to judge if we’re truly happy because there are so many different yardsticks that we’re measuring ourselves against. Being constantly connected to our phones, and always aware of what is going on in other peoples’ lives only exacerbates this, as this takes our focus off of ourselves, and onto other people.

Whether its our friend’s trip to Europe broadcasted on Facebook, SnapChats of our acquaintances’ nights out at the clubs, or pins of the hottest dresses, swimsuits and jewelry on Pinterest, we’re continuously flooded with reminders of what will supposedly make our lives better. All of these outlets that constantly bombard us beg the questions: do I have enough things, and enough friends? Is my life as exciting and fun as its “supposed” to be? Am I pretty enough, interesting enough, happy enough?

Making it the theme of her class one day, one of the instructors, Jessica spoke about not comparing.

“When we look at someone who can do a headstand, or a crow pose, or something else challenging and we haven’t yet reached their level, we shouldn’t judge. We don’t know what it took for them to get there. Maybe they’ve been practicing yoga for eight years and its taken them five to get that pose. Maybe today is the first day they’ve accomplished it. Maybe they do two hundred crunches every day to develop the core strength to do a headstand. There was probably a lot of work that went in to make that pose look pretty. Don’t resent or be jealous.”

Similarly, when we look at the Facebook statuses, or the Instagram feeds of people we know, or even just by talking to someone in person, we have to recognize that we’re not always getting the full story. People don’t often share the negatives, the struggles, or the frustrations on social media (or even in real life). Consequently, we only see the positive outcomes, the highlights; the things that we deem “worth” sharing.

Next time someone appears to have the “perfect life,” or have it all “put together,” either in real life, or as displayed via social media networks, pause and remember that nobody does; some are just better at making it appear that way.

-la fille americaine


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