My favourite leggings
We all have our preferences but sometimes it’s good to explore new ways. By Victoria Jackson
I like coffee, sunshine, hugs and pyjamas. I prefer them to tea, drizzle, aloofness or dungarees. We all have our preferences. I like to think mine give me some charming and unique character. On a more practical level I also think they help me navigate all those trivial choices I’m confronted with every day – what to eat for breakfast, the clothes I wear (it can’t always be pyjamas, alas!), which route to take to work, and so on. I don’t need to think so much about these things, I just go with what I like.
In yoga too, as in life, I have my preferences: the teachers I like, my favourite spot in the yoga room, the leggings I look cutest in. And that’s before we even get to the first sun salutation of class. Because, of course, I have my preferences in yoga poses too. There are the ones I love and the ones I would never choose to practice on my own without the teacher leading me there.
Yes, preferences are part of life. But in terms of yoga philosophy the occurrence of such preferences, called raga, is listed as one of the kleshas, the causes of suffering. And if I have one overriding preference, it’s that I prefer to avoid suffering! So I gave myself a little yoga experiment of playing with my preferences to see what happened. If I could let go of my likes and dislikes a little, would things look different to me? Ultimately, would I suffer less if I could
meet yoga poses (or life events) with greater equanimity?
I made a list of poses that I regularly avoid and I’ve been steadily introducing them into my practice as well as asking myself why I dislike them. Most of the time it came down to one simple thing: I just wasn’t that good at them! And who would choose to practice in a way that makes you feel bad about yourself and your ability?
But, you’ve guessed it, of course – the more I explored the things I thought I didn’t like and I found ways of making the poses work for my body, the more my preferences shifted or melted away. I started to enjoy some of the postures I thought I could never like. Familiarity and intimacy replaced aversion or avoidance. Yoga practice overall was so much more enjoyable now that I had fewer poses to really dislike! Plus all that patient and attentive work paid off and I’m already realising my body can do things I didn’t think it ever could.
But some preferences are harder to let go of: during all my yoga experiments I’m still favouring the leggings I look cutest in. My ego won’t give up its preference for vanity that easily!
Victoria Jackson lives and teaches in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance Professionals as a vinyasa yoga teacher