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The Quest for Power and Grace

I have been practicing yoga for years. Not sure why, but I think that anyone whoever drove a station wagon, x-country skied or ran long distances must have explored yoga at some point. So wherever I traveled, I would inevitably stumble into a yoga class. I was not supple and yoga did not come naturally, but somehow it made me feel right and I left it at that.

Ten years ago, I found a wonderful teacher, Jeff Logan, who introduced me to Iyangar Yoga. I practiced diligently under Jeff’s guidance for years. Jeff taught me the fine art of body alignment and staying light. But it wasn’t until I watched my friend Edina practice Ashtanga yoga that I realized my practice needed a new direction.

Edina held most of the poses I practiced, but she held them for only 5 breaths each and then she moved gracefully to the next pose. It seemed like a well choreographed dance. Every pose was a preparation for the next. There was order between breath and motion. I was intrigued.

However, it was at Stacy’s studio that I started to grasp the full potential of the Ashtanga system. The first thing I noticed was that the room was warm and the students were sweating. The primary series of Ashtanga takes about 90 minutes to finish and goes through some forty postures and countless connecting flows, or vinyasas. Fifteen minutes into my first class, I knew the challenge was huge. I was sweating profusely, the poses seemed challenging and my breath was labored. I had to stop to avoid a meltdown.

I leaned against the wall, wiped the sweat from my brow and just watched. Across the humid haze was a lithe women moving through the sequence with power and grace. Every pose held to perfection, every movement linked to a breath and every aerial takeoff and landing done with a swish. She didn’t labor. She was beautiful, inspiring  and oh so sensual. She was in total control of her body. I know beyond a doubt that this was a practice made for me and that one day I would master it. I was hooked.

I also knew this would be a lifetime project. I wanted to own the sequence, to master the breathing, to become a moving meditation. I wanted to float over the mat. I wanted power and I wanted grace.

However, the first thing I learned about the quest for power and grace is that being eighteen is a hell of a lot  better than being fifty! My body was rebelling. Keep in mind that this practice was invented by little guys jumping around in loin cloths in the caves of India, not information warriors tethered to their screens for days at a time.

I had to scale back my ambitions. I had to adopt a new strategy to my approach to mastery and to love the practice itself not the end result. I had to think in terms of geological time scale for reaching new goals. In short, I needed a new paradigm for evaluating progress or this yoga was going to kill me.

In my search I read an exceptional book by George Leonard called ‘Mastery’. In it Leonard emphasizes that you should practice diligently, but practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself. So rather than being frustrated while on an endless plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it just as much as you do the upward surges that happen when they happen.

We are trained for instant gratification. We don’t apprentice. We get turned on, we Google, we download and we expect to know. We get addicted to accomplishing and if it doesn’t come easy, we move on. On the flip side, the master simply anticipates the plateau. He doesn’t fight it, stress about it or quit. He practices dedication and practices diligently, for the sake of the practice itself. If nothing else, Ashtanga has taught me to love the practice and to dwell in its fine tuning. The acrobatics come later.

After practicing Ashtanga for a few years, I’ve mastered very few poses, but I did master some. I have flashes of genius where my breath is perfectly synchronized and my energy and concentration builds with each movement. But they are only flashes. My quest for mastery still seems a long way off.

Maybe someday power and grace will come while practicing outside on a dock at sunrise. I’ll roll out my mat across the planks and start with the sun salutations and flow from there. My mind will be free to roam beyond my quest for perfection and I’ll be absorbed in the coming together of the horizon and a body fully fit to explore it. After all, maybe a body fit for adventure is all I’ve been wanting in the first place.


  • edina segal

    Nice sticky mat!!!! Thanks for the mention, glad the chance yurt encounter led to something so powerful (and graceful). I would love to practice together one day! Jeff is so amazing and never ceasing to inspire me on many levels…….I thank you for the change up in my life!

  • Rob

    This…this is why we will always remain friends. Why we continue to inspire one another to become the best of ourselves. This, my friend, is how we grow. This…is living!

    In friendship and deep respect,

  • Ah you have articulated so well the mind of artistic process – it is indeed all about being in the moment with one’s process (practice as it is called in yoga) not going after a result but recognizing that each time one enters into artistic process it is a new experience. All senses come into play. No matter what you know, what you did last time or will do tomorrow, each process is unique unto itself…one must be aware both inside and out and if lucky sometimes you ride through it with less thought and effort and are experiencing the gloriousness of being in it with an energy flow that you dont own…rather you resonate in, or does it resonate in you or both?…And might mastery be the ability to enter into the resonance with ease and confidence and humble awareness that the physical wears out and the spiritual breath of it all takes on an all important power to rejuvenate and elevate? Neshima = neshamah?

  • Amir

    Nicely said. I don’t qualify as a typical yogi as i don’t x-country (i like downhill and speed), i don’t have a wagon (but my wife just got one), and i am not into long distance running (i like to sprint and play tennis). Nonetheless, at 50, i started Hatha yoga and spiced it up with a little Vinyasa and am making slow progress in adding a little flex to my stiff body and loving the room in my brain that’s reserved for my yoga mat. It’s become a part of my life (like walking mobi) and i luv it. ronen, thanks for introducing me to yoga, and Guzin, thanks for helping me keep the momentum going.

  • David Ehrlich

    Thanks for the inspiring post, Ronen.
    It’s fascinating to read a male viewpoint on a practice which in western culture is predominantly held by women.
    I wish I could parctice Yoga every day. When I do, I feel – like you – that it’s the real thing. It’s magic.

  • Jeff Logan

    Wow! I get it… rather than being “The one”, it’s more like being “one with”… how “horizon(tal)”.

About Ronen Yaari

I’m no guru and I don’t have hundreds of hours of certifications. All I can claim is that I did not squander the time that I was given so far. I took care of my body from an early age and realized that a fit body was going to be the vehicle of choice to propel me around the planet to find what I was supposed to find. I ran marathons, biked continents, climbed glaciers, walked across states, sailed oceans, explored reefs and floated myself over yoga mats. If the sun is down I’m a sleep and if it’s up I’m outside. My biggest accomplishment by far is creating a family that enjoys each other and puts up with me.