“Poser” is a word I often hear at Yoga Shelter. It’s clever in that it has double meaning: someone who thinks yoga is all about doing poses and someone who’s a phony (as I will explain, the two are interwoven). I can say that I have fallen into the trap of being a poser, and I don’t feel ashamed to admit it, nor do I see the classes I spent in this delusion as wasted time. By reflecting on it and noticing my fallacy in trying to be a poser, I was able to bring more authenticity to my practice and become more familiar with myself. So I am not talking from a place of judgment, just a place of observation.
I remember my first yoga class there was a spontaneous image in my mind of an orange sunrise. It felt like a sign that I was on the verge of finding something great, like there was an untapped energy inside me I needed to find. I continued to use the yoga matt as a place to search.
Working my body in new ways made me feel new sensations I didn’t know what to make of. I remember a nagging lower back twitch emerging. I tried not to agitate it, but I also didn’t pay close enough attention to it, so it persisted. It was like a coming across a crying child, and instead of asking the child what is wrong, I resented the child for not being OK and ignored it. It was trying to tell me something but I thought of it only as an impediment to my practice.
After a while I became frustrated. I wasn’t finding anything (or rather I didn’t think I did). I thought that if I made my poses good enough I’d eventually have some psychedelic experience that would transcend me to the heavens above like a crazy dream or a drug trip. To my disappointment, I never had this experience. I became upset because this meant I couldn’t fulfill my idealization of what it meant to be “spiritual”.
In hindsight, trying to fit into this “spiritual” identity undermined my practice. I wasn’t trying to take care of myself; I was trying to be something I wasn’t. I was a phony. I was a poser. (Again, no judgment – it was just where I was with my practice.)
Doing yoga now I don’t look for magic as it distracts from what’s actually happening. With each pose I try not perfect but rather listen to the wisdom of my body. When I feel strain in my lower back, I work to bring awareness to it. Without reproach, I inquire what that spot is holding. When I discovered the immense energy this spot held, the orange sun I imagined in my first class brightened and rose higher to the sky.