Have you ever held a strong magnifying glass over a fingernail? A mole on your arm? A vein under your skin? When I was a kid, a neighbor boy had one, and, until he broke it, we used it to peer at various bugs and limbs. (I also remember the same boy trying to burn up ants with it, but that's probably an experience I should keep to myself ;-)
I found that in looking at something close-up like that, there was usually an initial "Oh, yuck" reaction. The magnification brought to light crevasses and colors I hadn't paid attention to before. But the "Oh, yuck" would always pass, and the object of scrutiny would suddenly become fascinating. The corners of the fingernail or arch of the vein, taken for granted throughout the day, suddenly held interest. They deserved to be observed and appreciated as things unto themselves.
Isn't this what happens in the yoga room? So much has been written--by you all and even a bit by me--about our first days in the yoga class. I don't think I can ever forget the shock--OK, the horror--of facing myself for so long. I remember thinking, "Oh wow. My arms bulge that way? I look like that when I bend forward?" And then, as I persisted in the practice, "You've got to be kidding me. I'm still scared in standing back-bend?"
I think yoga holds a magnifying glass over ourselves. Initially, we're surprised at what we look like when we're suffering and exposed like that. I had some serious "Oh, yuck" moments, anyway. But as you regular practitioners know, that judgment eases up. The slope of the hands, the placement of the feet, it can all become a marvellous assemblage of skin, muscles, and bone.
At the same time, it's an endless process of discovery. I may no longer be grossed out by my scapula as I bend forward into Separate-Leg Head-to-Knee pose, but I'm surprised that I still approach that posture with fear. I'm surprised that I have no idea what the teachers mean when they say, "right hip forward, left hip back, both hips in one line," and that seeing certain instructors' names on the "Today's instructor is:" sheet gets my heart rate up.
There are still plenty of "oh, yuck" moments. But there's discovery there, and what happiness in observing the changes, slow as they are to come.
Enjoy your magnifying glass. Please don't burn up any ants in the process, though :-)
* on another note, thanks for your enriching and illuminating comments on the previous post about leaving the room. I appreciate the non-judgmental, supportive nature of this yoga blogging community. I'd expect no less of you, but I'm always humbled by such positive responses.