Getting better all the time
My yoga teacher and good friend, Surinder Singh ji of Swasti Yogashala, Rishikesh, is not fluent in English, but somehow, the fact that he is forced to keep to a simple vocabulary, helps to drive home the salient points of his teachings with a straightforward clarity that often gets lost in the kind of lecturing style that some teachers adopt. But one thing that I heard him say every day of our training had me a bit perplexed.
“You are doing better and better, every day in every way.”
This was, as far as I was concerned, demonstrably untrue.
Even back then at the start of my yoga journey, some days I could perform the tree without a wobble, other days I felt like a drunk on a skating rink. Some days I could hold the camel pose for a full minute, other days I’d collapse into a heap after only 30 seconds. Certain mornings could be so dramatically different from the previous one often with no clear rhyme or reason. Was it the gluten in the pizza I’d had for dinner? Had I slept funny? You realize after a while that on some days, well, things just don’t work as well, and the body is no exception. But there he went, my dear Surinder ji, every day the same mantra “You are doing better and better.”
What on earth was he on about? I was beginning to think there was something wrong with him.
Fast forward to a full two years later, when Surinder ji began offering lessons via Zoom because of the pandemic. It was so lovely to see him again. I had missed him terribly and particularly that bond of respect and trust that comes with working with someone over a long period of time. But at the end of the lesson, there he went again with the you are doing better and better every day. And then it hit me.
He wasn’t saying that every day the nuts and bolts of your yoga practice is going to improve. He was saying that we are always becoming a better student of yoga. And that includes learning to accept the days when our thighs wobble or our shoulders stiffen, or we just feel tired or unmotivated or frustrated or irritated. It means getting better at not regarding every development (good or bad) as a trend. It means getting better at doing things when you just don’t feel like doing them, not doing them when you simply can’t, and understanding the difference. It means getting better at being honest with where you are at any point in time. It means getting better at enjoying when you improve and having patience when you don’t. It means getting better at befriending impermanence and imperfection. In short, It means getting better at responding to whatever comes up in the moment. Oh, I thought, in that ‘it’s been staring in your face the whole time’ kind of way, that’s what he means! And now, like the Beatles song goes, “It’s getting better all the time.”