The other morning in yoga, my instructor, Dakota Lupo, said something that made me laugh out loud. I am a little careful now about when I laugh aloud in yoga because once I laughed at something a new instructor said — she was funny — and she glared at me. She said, “Yoga is serious.” Well. Hmph.
Screw that. Yoga is about breathing. Yoga is not always about serious. It’s sort of Zen in that way, serious but not serious. It is about laughing at the clinging and pushing we do. When I blend my Jizo and my yoga, I get to smile on the exhalation as I gaze into my own eyes. And I get to laugh. I can laugh — at me, at how serious I get, way too serious.
We were standing between poses, encouraged not to fuss with our hair or clothes but to be in standing savasana. Dakota said, “This is about breathing. Yoga is about breathing, not magic.” I laughed out loud. I get it. I get it, now.
I have been practicing yoga since I was 16 years old, with Lilias, Yoga and You on PBS. (Lilias has been practicing over 40 years and is still glowing.) Back then, I thought yoga would confer magical skills upon me. Yoga would perfect me, make me the strongest, the most spiritual, the most Senior Magician in the class. And 15 years ago, I got injured in yoga while I STRIVED for my teacher. Know how I got hurt? By living for her to say, “Beautiful, Valerie!” which she did often. I clung to those words, I wanted love and approval. I did not know I was there to breathe. I wanted to be magically fixed.
I am grateful to know this now. It only took me 40 years. I thought I would save some of you some time and hip you to the idea right now: Yoga is not about ‘look at me’ or about ‘compare and despair.’ Yoga is about the union of mind and body via the breath. As I observe my striving ego and detach, I get stronger, deeper breath and, hence, a more peaceful and accepting mind. And sometimes, yes, I even laugh.