I remember my father, A. G. Mohan, saying, years ago, that having a challenge in yoga practice is good, but every practitioner needs to ask, “Who is challenging what? And why?”
If my challenge is to put my legs behind my head, that’s neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong, as an absolute. But who is issuing that challenge to me? My mind? Am I conscious of every thought in my mind? Far from it. My mind in this moment reflects the sum of innumerable subconscious processes in the past and the present. Not much that that our minds say can be given a free pass.
If my mind issues the challenge, who executes it? It’s not my mind that puts its legs behind the head; not directly, anyway. It’s my body that does it.
So, if my mind challenges my body, is that a wise challenge? To answer that question, we must ask, “Why?”
When the mind challenges the body, it’s a good idea to challenge the mind first. If there is a meaningful answer forthcoming, then we can pass the challenge to the body.
If the answer is, “Because the person on the next yoga mat is doing it,” “My teacher told me to,” or “That’s how we do it in this style of yoga,” that’s not a very good answer, is it? After all, none of these answers says why you should be doing this. None of these responses includes the context or relevance of this challenge to you as an individual.
You are not your neighbor on the mat. You are not your teacher. You are not the same as every other person doing a style of yoga. Even identical twins do have different life experiences and life goals!
As Krishnamacharya wisely said, “Teaching is for the taught.”
Yoga has to be meaningful to you, and powered by you. Only then is it sustainable over time, and rewarding throughout life.
- Ganesh Mohan