I've not been attending yoga classes for the past week. I have been taking a break because of the pain on my back. But a few days ago I felt better and I tried some standard poses, like Revolved Side Angle Pose but with the advance hand-binds. I think I pulled something on my right side as there is now a sharp pain that refuses to subside. Talk about an exercise in bull-headed stupidity.
I think my backaches may not just be the King Cobra I attempted two Fridays ago. For the past few months I have been pushing myself in my spinal twists. The pain is probably a cumulative effort of all the heavy-duty spine work.
Just a clarification: It's not about the style of yoga I do or who was teaching the class. While it is important to have a mindful teacher that looks out for you, we have to take responsibility for our practice. It is my practice, no one else's. I was impatient and went too far, too fast in my practice. And of course my refusal to rest delayed my recovery.
I was looking forward to my inversion class ― and most of all the new Anusara class they launched last week ― but as one of my teacher reminds us, we have our whole life to practice.
But this doesn't mean I'm not agitated. I'm trying to use this time to take stock on what I have neglected in my practice. Last year I had intended to re-read the Bhagavad Gita, but this time the Stephen Mitchell translation. As best laid plans went, it didn't happen. I'm putting the Gita back on my 100 Books To Read 2007. If anything, my pulled muscles is evidence I need to learn the lesson of effort without expectations. I was too caught up with achieving the "perfect pose" - I forgot yoga was never about how you look, but it is the journey towards self.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna:
You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a an established within himself - without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind.
As Mahatma Gandhi explains it:
By detachment I mean that you must not worry whether the desired result follows from your action or not, so long as your motive is pure, your means correct. Really, it means that things will come right in the end if you take care of the means and leave the rest to Him.
But for Gandhi, renunciation:
... in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. He who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the result and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfillment of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruits of his action.
Paradox seems to be the essence of yoga. It demands that you always try your best, but simultaneously demanding that you relinquish claims to the results of your good works. The effort itself is supposed to be purifying. Without expectations, only then is one truly able to act wholeheartedly for the benefit of all. But that is so hard to do, to be so centred in right action. It requires that leap of faith, trust in the unfolding of karma. I sometimes wonder if I possess enough faith for someone so ordinary.