Thursday, November 17, 2011

Living for Outcomes and the "Yoga Sutras"

Ami Fox (; Wisdom Quarterly

I spent the summer re-reading the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

These are deep concepts that go far beyond the mat -- yet very practical, commonsense, and elegant.

Now as we ease into autumn, it seems that some of these concepts resonate more deeply. I have been getting hung up on my attachment to outcomes.

Let's face it. This world is all about outcomes: goals, objectives, focus. I am sucked into these frames. For my mental well being, it seems necessary to step away from being results-oriented and ease into a space where the process itself is my motivation for action.

For instance, when I teach a yoga class, I always want the class to go smoothly, for everyone to enjoy the pace, and delight in the presentation. That is not always the outcome. So it is hard to find motivation in the process.

Take working into a posture (asana), for example. It is common for us as Americans to want to look a certain way in a pose. And if it is not achieved, we are often disappointed and feel like a "yoga failure."

"It was the greatest leap ever taken. The speed of Hanuman's jump pulled blossoms and flowers into the air...they cheered" - Ramayana, retold by William Buck (

I have worked for years to achieve full Hanumasana. Yet at the end of the year, at the end of the decade, I am still so far from the floor that it is not what my ego would say is a "good" monkey pose splits.

I joke with my classes that there is no trophy in the back with someone doing the perfect monkey pose or downward dog. But I say this to remind myself. The postures are very intelligent, supporting liver, kidney, and endocrine function, as well as increasing flexibility and strength.

It is important to stay with the process not the aesthetics (or even the asceticism) of it, but rather the health benefits.

There is more to come concerning The Yoga Sutras. A conversation is a series of contemplation and utterances. Find more on my new blog.

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