Ian Hoke is a husband, father, and teacher living and working in Zurich, Switzerland. Catch more of his thoughts at his education blog.
I am, by no means, a yogi. I have practiced, enjoyed, and benefited from yoga, in particular from the practice of Ashtanga. For several years I delved into and became absorbed by my yoga practice. My practice developed into something regular, five to six days a week. My body felt stronger and simply more comfortable than it had for years. My mind was more focused and disciplined. The two years in which I explored Ashtanga were also the first two years of my eldest daughter Dorothy’s life.
Dorothy is like a clock, wedded to routine, and has been from three months old. The predictability of her schedule and the amount of freedom afforded by life in Chengdu, China, where a teacher’s wages made us fabulously wealthy allowed me to attend several yoga classes each week. Household chores were nonexistent. My job was relaxed. Once per year, we flew to a fabulous Thai island for a week of clean food, yoga, and massages. These were, in the words of H.I. McDunnough, the salad days.
When I arrived in Switzerland, I practiced several times, tried out some new yoga studios, and ultimately stopped cold. The reasons for this are myriad, but can be boiled down to a poor reaction to change on my part and a reduction in what I perceive as my free time. For the first year in Zurich, I could easily have continued to practice, but in May of last year, we had a second daughter and I no longer see any spaces at all for practice. I have no doubt that opportunities exist, but I do not see them.
As such, the past two years have seen my body weaken, my posture slump, and my mind become more distracted. What I learned through my brief yoga practice, I still know. What I gained in a concrete sense, like improved discipline, is gone. But what I wonder is this: Am I stopped on the path or have I lost the path entirely?
That yoga is a tradition emphasizing the importance of gurus makes sense to me now more than ever. What is a teacher if not a guide who cares enough about the long view to keep us working today, against human nature that seems remarkably myopic? I have not found a teacher yet, or maybe I have and chose to forget. In a virtually connected world, the importance of physical proximity to one’s teacher remains clear, uncluttered by wires and silicon chips. I don’t have that.
What I do have is a mat and the knowledge of part of the Primary Series. What I lack is the will to roll out that mat and begin. I should. I may. It would be, for a man with two special daughters, powerful modeling that inaction is no thing, no way, and that right action is better.
I think “Maybe tomorrow,” but there is some today yet remaining.