There’s an album by 80’s American hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys called Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. For years I sold this album to stores in my capacity as a record company sales rep, so maybe that’s why this phrase so often springs to mind for me in yoga. And not necessarily in a good way.
Convenience is one of the most desirable (and therefore profitable) qualities humankind seeks. But why? Why are we so obsessed with convenience? The Oxford Dictionary definition of convenience is: “The state of being able to proceed with something without difficulty”. Hmmm. Okay. So we are seeking to do something without difficulty. But check the definition for difficult: “Needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand”. Interesting – it sounds a lot like yoga practice to me. It also sounds like something worth having. And if we look at the definition for “inconvenience” we find: “The state or fact of being troublesome or difficult with regards to one’s personal requirements or comfort”. So how does comfort relate to our practice?
Yoga Sutra 2.46 is Sthira Sukham Asanam which means the yoga posture should be steady and comfortable. But this requires effort and, dare I say, a not-inconsequential amount of difficulty and inconvenience to attain. It’s not where we start in our practice at all. When we first come to yoga our bodies are often dull and filled with aches and pains. But with time, things can begin to shift and the physical discomforts and pains may ease, or at least become less of a focus. Well respected senior yoga teacher Mary Dunn once said: “First you learn about the asanas, then you learn about yourself”. And, I would add, that along the way this requires a healthy dose of inconvenience.
It takes discipline, time, money, and some personal discomfort to learn about oneself through yoga practice. None of which could be described as convenient. If it was such an easy path, everyone would be doing it! The path of a yogi requires some inconvenience. But the rewards are so vast. It’s why, for example, as teachers we sacrifice convenience to attend workshops. We also sacrifice it in the form of time (sitting in traffic to cross town to get to a class, sitting in airports to get to other states or countries), and in money (professional development fees, wages foregone from classes not taught, airfares, petrol, accommodation, childcare…the list goes on). But we do it because we understand that working only in the realm of convenience is not going to deliver the same benefits. Always seeking to eradicate the ‘troublesome or difficult with regards to one’s comfort’ is not the most thorough or rewarding path.
This is also so very true for students. For example, where movement is convenient, action asks for engagement and skill. Where a shoddily-folded blanket in Savasana might be convenient, it does not deliver the same results as one folded well and placed with care. Do we rush to get out the door after class and messily put our props away? Do we chose a class time because it’s easiest to get to, even though it’s not the most appropriate level? Do we forego the benefits of an early morning class just because we want an extra hour’s sleep? There are any number of ways reaching for ‘convenience’ can play out in and around our practice. But where’s the skill and the benefit in that?