That there was no reason to frustrate myself attempting a pose, forcing flexibility, or lamenting the way my body was built or wasn't built. Yoga, he told me, is an art that fits the body, not the other way around. That's the beauty of it, and if you rush past all that beauty (I like to think of it as scenery), then what's the point of the journey?
Sometimes I think that's the wisest, most incredible, illuminating, and freeing advice I've ever received. And sometimes I think it's complete and utter crap, just another example of how I'm supposed to love and accept myself even on days I can't flipping stand to look in the mirror, much less deal with the (lack of) progress I've made on my mat.
On those days, the ones where I melodramatically lament my whole being and my existence on this planet in the first place, the idea of scenery sneaks up on me. I force myself to shut up with the drama already and think about one of my absolute favorite things—long trips with new scenery. Would I take those trips if I had to put up with miles and miles of interstate? No. What's the point? Interstate is quick, sure, but it was also built in a (relative) heartbeat, rather than thousands of years of evolution.
Scenery—trees, ocean, mountains, wildflowers—took years, generations, hell, eons for all I know, to develop, and it takes a lifetime to appreciate. A lifetime to appreciate. Otherwise, what's the point? Where's the art? Where's the beauty if we're confined to interstates and other such convenient, man-made marvels?
So this brings me back to the mat. This is the scenery. This is a lifetime work. Nothing strong, steady, beautiful, scarred, storied, and worth watching grows quickly. Or, if it does, it becomes weak, leggy, and lifeless, spending all that carefully stored energy in one mighty (admittedly exhilarating) but dangerous burst of energy. After that, what's left? What sustains that life?
This is the lesson of yoga—that the beauty of the practice is sustained over a lifetime; it develops slowly. The tree never laments that its branches don't bend artistically (at least I don't think it does; I imagine trees are much too enlightened for that kind of nonsense), but only strives to reach the light and does so patiently, thoroughly, and often creatively.
There is room for creativity in this lifetime practice. Yoga teaches us to be so in the moment that, if a pose isn't working, if we know our body wasn't built in a particular way, we find a way around or through. We can find the light as long as we're present enough to notice the opening through which it's shining. If we're not present? All we see is darkness. And while darkness is necessary for growth, for rest, for restoration, too much of it will kill us. If we aren't present, we will drown in darkness.
So when my feet won't touch my head in Vrschikasana (Scorpion Pose), despite working on it for longer than I'm ready to admit, I think about progress, perseverance, and journeys, rather than results and destinations. Yoga is not a result-oriented art. It is a constant journey with no destination. Bodies change, age, grow stronger, weaker. My practice today cannot be my practice tomorrow or yesterday or ten years from now. Regret, frustration have no place on this journey. All they do is detract from all that glorious, slow-growing scenery.