by Jacob Hoffman
I never went through a lost phase. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt deeply rooted by a sense of self. There hasn’t ever been a time where the notion of who Jacob is has come into question. I’ve always seen myself clearly. And for a time, it seemed the world around me also had a clear picture of who I was. The only problem: they didn’t like what they saw. Somewhere along the line, I received a message loudly (and quite clearly) that what I was selling on the playground and in the classroom no one had any intention of buying. So, I thought, perhaps it was time to change, to tweak the current model and hope for a better outcome. But this would prove difficult for the boy who knew exactly who he was. Rather, I opted to break myself into little pieces, chose which ones to show and when, and let my compartmentalized self move through the world, hopefully with fewer bumps and bruises. And for quite a long while, this plan proved successful. The only problem: I was broken, and by my own doing.
In the years to come, I began gluing myself back together, taking the separate pieces that made up “Jacob” and creating a bigger picture, with a wide angle lens. I think many of us have spent at least a portion of our adult lives rebuilding, returning, or in some cases rediscovering who it is we were before braces.
This is why yoga is important. This is why I find myself drawn to the practice of yoga. For yoga asks of you a re-visitation; to your mat, your practice, your breath, your self. As Teacher Trainees, we are given a daily practice, a sadhana, to help us begin to see ourselves more clearly and to widen our own personal lens. This practice, this private exercise, is constant, but the results vary. Some days, I am furious with myself for not traveling as deeply inward as I would like. Other days, I am smug, astounded by my own tranquility. I’m barely two months into this ritual, but already one thing rings true: feelings will change, circumstances may vary, but the practice remains constant.
This, I find, is what has been true of my own journey toward self discovery since I was small. I broke myself, all parts of me, into digestible, inoffensive lots, waiting to see which would serve me most in any given moment. Yet no matter how hard I tried, how much of myself I kept locked away, I could still not control how others chose to see me. So why not put the pieces together? After all, with all of me present, it won’t matter so much if things fall apart. After the dust settles, I’ll most likely still be here. This is what yoga teaches us, what Teacher Training continues to teach me: after the sweat, the breath, the effort, I’m still here.
And this is why we practice, isn’t it? To create that consistency, the wide angle lens within ourselves.
When I first began practicing, I enjoyed getting lost in the flow of a class. Yoga, I thought, was a moving meditation that took my troubles away and let me forget where (or even who) I was. Now, yoga no longer takes me away. Instead, it takes me deeper into where I am, into who I’m becoming. Where I am isn’t always pleasant. Who I’m becoming isn’t always the person I’d most like to be. But my practice is helping me see the full picture, and it really doesn’t matter what value anyone else assigns it. Because, after all is said and done, it will still be here.