Some people have gifted bodies.
The ‘gifted body‘ expression is one that Kino used to describe a lovely student in one of her intensives in Miami. It really rang true with me as a way of concisely acknowledging that some bodies just know how to work. some bodies are naturally strong or flexible or coordinated (or all of the above).
Sometimes people are born with gifted bodies; their limbs and spine follow direction easily and can create the shapes of the practice without many attempts or excessive effort. and sometimes, through the steadiness of practice, one can train their body to appear gifted. (I think this is the message of my American teacher and mentor; her exceptional practice is not the result of an exceptionally gifted body, but rather the result of steady, dedicated practice)
As a practitioner I acknowledge that I do not have a particularly gifted body. nor do I have a tight or weak body. as in most things, I am quite average.
I consider this a blessing.
because in the ashtanga yoga method, a gifted body is not necessarily an advantage.
The longer I practice the more I am exposed to these gifted bodies, young students who breeze through primary, and occasionally intermediate without breaking a sweat. As a middle-of-the-road practitioner, I find that my mind has a tendency to lament my lack of a natural instinct for the practice, rather than be grateful for the consistent health and willingness to work that does exist in my body. and this is unfortunate.
because in the end, my body is a machine. It is a tool I have to use, to carry me around this world, to teach me lessons and give me opportunities for growth and development.
and that is why I practice.
That’s why we practice, this ever growing community of aspiring ashtanga yogis. We are, consciously or not, trying to acknowledge this machine we have to use as a tool for awareness of ourselves as something separate from it.
and some peoples’ machines are particularly adept at the bending and the pressing that is the ashtanga yoga method.
The interesting thing is that sometimes the body accomplishes the shapes in a way that is not particularly beneficial to the practitioner. Maybe the gifted nature of the body encourages the ego. or the natural ability of the body to make the shape disguises a lack of energetic integration that will eventual lead to pain or injury. Truly inspiring teachers, like Sharath (and Kino!) can see the difference between a gifted body and a body that has been trained to appear gifted. a body that has been trained (resisting its nature as average) is likely to have a level of awareness and integration that is the purpose of practicing asana.
I had a friend tell me she loves practicing at a particular place in the shala, basically wedged in amongst the lions in the 4:15 practice (and I knew immediately why)… because she is surrounded by gifted bodies, some natural, but all trained. Each person she named is a living, breathing, practicing example of the beauty of ashtanga yoga and what this method can do to a person.
Rather than broadcasting their proficiency in asana and making sure that everyone in town knows how strong and supple they are, they quietly do their work and pay their respects to our beloved teacher.