Why is it that so many of us have a hankering for high intensity transformative yoga– long after massive transformations have occurred? I chatted up my friend Caroline over a few navasanas on the subject. “Caroline,” I said, not wanting to really focus on my boat, “why is it that after we’ve proverbially self immolated for all this time, we are so intent on continuing to burn the ashes? Isn’t the nature of transcendence to, ya know, transend?”
She nodded, smiling. “It’s almost comical, isn’t it? We spend so much time and energy ramping up the the intensity of our practice, not realizing the real transformation that happens within us, by our own hands.”
“I reckon I get it– who doesn’t want to find enlightenment? If we’ve done so much, tried so hard, and it’s legit possible in this life for each of us– why wouldn’t someone want to go to extremes? My hope is that as we enter into maturity in our practice, not just in our 40s and 50s we begin to see the wisdom in not just fueling the fire for the sake of intensity, but in savoring its current warmth and light, appreciating the transformation it has fostered within us.” Caroline responded, “Exactly. The journey becomes less about seeking higher, more intense flames and more about finding depth and fulfillment inside of ourselves, not inside of the flames themselves.”
Now, I’m gonna interrupt that conversation with a little note. Please don’t misunderstand — evolution in our practice perspective doesn’t diminish the importance of physical vigor but contextualizes it within the broader narrative of our growth. We start to value the less tangible yet profound aspects of our practice – the inner peace, the emotional stability, and the contentment in being present.
As practitioners, we learn to cherish our current state, recognizing the humor in our earlier relentless pursuit of transformation. The quest for transcendence is reframed: it’s no longer about the intensity of the fire but about the insight and harmony we achieve in managing its flames.
Have you had an experience like this in your yoga journey? Maybe on the path of physical or athletic pursuit? Or maybe somewhere you had a more nuanced dance with the fire of practice? Please share with me in the comments below where you learned to balance practices intensity. What joy and wisdom (or sorrow and sadness) have you found?