Your physicality will not make you happy. Sure, good alignment, strength and flexibility make for a healthier body, but please know that your physical prowess on the yoga mat will not make you happy. Can you be proud of it? Sure. Will your body thank you? Indeed it will. Let me just reiterate it one more time though – happiness will not come from your asana ability.
Take a look at some of the happiest people you know. What is it about their lives that allows them to enjoy each moment to the fullest? Can they all do handstands? No. Do they all have open hamstrings? I don’t think so. And let’s face it, we all know at least one person who can perform many physical feats, but is not our favorite person to be around. When we truly think of happiness in ourselves and those around us, it’s clear that the perfect Warrior 2 has little to do with it.
Of course our physical practice serves a purpose; it’s just not our highest purpose. When you look at the renderings of buddha, does he have six pack abs? When you see images of Jesus, does he look like his shoulders are strong enough to do all of the chaturangas in a vinyasa class? Do you think Mother Theresa could get her leg behind her head?
Yet every day when I teach, I see students obsessed with getting stronger and more flexible, as if those are the things that matter most. For years I’ve seen so many people in the yoga room struggle with the thought that “once I can do THAT, then I’ll be happy”. Guess what?! You won’t. Happiness isn’t a physical destination, it’s a state of mind. It has been found by my students who aren’t necessarily the fittest or most perfectly aligned. By the ones who can sit in a tough pose with a smile on their faces. By the ones that can take child’s pose a few times in a class and not worry about what other people think about it. By the ones who skip the option to go deeper in a pose and instead back off and take it easy when they need to. By the ones who skip a yoga class and instead take a walk and enjoy the sunset.
I’m not saying that our asana practice isn’t important. It’s very important. What I am saying is that it’s easy to become obsessed with our bodies and lose perspective of the bigger picture. Is it really your gluteal muscles that you want to develop, or is it a happy and fulfilling life? Our physical fitness can help us get there, but it is not the goal. Let’s all be sure to remember that the next time we take a yoga pose too seriously!
Check out Vytas’ online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks or take his class in person at YogaWorks Main Street in Santa Monica, California.