A few nights ago, Jenny Hayo asked our Teacher Training group “why do you do yoga?” Several individual answers were volunteered: “it feels good”, “it helps me to know myself”, “it’s the only thing that helps me feel right”, and “sanity.”
Jenny asked us this question to offer a unifying reason for practice: to alleviate suffering. Our bodies can be in physical suffering, we can suffer when we wander far from ourselves, when we feel “off”, or even “insane.” The Sanskrit word for this is dukha, often talked of as “bad space.” Jenny offered an interesting translation of dukha: “the bad fit of an axle in a joint.”
Dukha is, simply, a bad fit. It can be as ordinary as pants that are too tight, or as dramatic as cancer in a loved one. Each is a “bad fit” that can lead to suffering.
Now yoga practice isn’t to make things fit, perfectly, matching, all in a row. It is a practice that helps us to see what is, and to be with what is, however it fits, or doesn’t. The suffering comes in when we try to force a fit, or wish it otherwise. As the saying goes, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”
Practice also helps us to feel better, stay healthy, strong, and flexible, but again, all of these things also alleviate suffering. And to me, they are icing on the cake. The essential stuff of practice is how it strengthens our ability to witness and be present so when the duhka hits the fan (you know you were thinking it!), we can remain alert and aware.
I hope that during this month of sacred holidays and solstice celebrations and the end of the Mayan calendar, you can continue to come to practice. Do it to alleviate suffering, your own, and the others around you.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer