The fallacy of mastery

Legend has it that when the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the namesake Bodhi tree he immediately switched his lotus legs from left over right – to right over left.  Yogic traditions share common cultural roots with the Buddhist lineages of old.  Indeed, we both favor our right side first on a routinely basis.  But more to the point, this paradigm shifting event which occurred some 2,500 years ago is deeply metaphoric, and therefore should not be confused with a shallower insight concerning what properly balanced alignment may entail.

urdva mukha svanasana
urdhva mukha svanasana

As my relationship to yoga deepens I am routinely drawn to this metaphor for mastery.  Developing an awareness of the body in the presence of breath and movement, an activity we yogis call vinyasa, seems like great preparation for developing mental, emotional, and even spiritual clarity.  For me, these transformations seem far more humbling than the visibly identifiable transformations which a routine vinyasa yoga practice brings about.

adho mukha svanasana
adho mukha svanasana

So, you may be wondering, “If mastery does not entail specific alignment criteria, then what does mastery entail?”  This question is a riddle of sorts and should inspire a degree of conscientious debate.  Taking personal responsibility for my own question, I feel that practicing vinyasa presents us with moment-to-moment challenges, which we must either choose to: fight head-on, ignore, or embrace.  I believe that the yogi who embraces vinyasa with unwavering lovingkindness is the true master of his or her practice.  Metaphorically, despite its numerous twists and bends, compassion is the ultimate direction of the yogi’s journey.


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