Today, in a yoga class, I reacquainted myself with the cosmic joke (the universe being a very funny situation in trillions of different ways). This cosmic piece of hilarity presented itself in the way that yoga, and the wider field of martials arts, play out.
I remember practically the first thing that my Krabi Krabong instructor (a kind of sword fighting martial art) told us:
He wanted us to have fun on day one and to stop taking the whole thing so seriously. Every experienced martial artist does this, when advanced enough. The black belts in a dojo don’t take it so seriously. They have fun. They’re comfortable.
This isn’t just a theory. Observe them. Ask them. Firas Zahabi, the trainer of GSP (the MMA GOAT) said that it's better to train often, lightly, and playfully. He also mentioned it's partially why Russian weightlifters and wrestlers keep crushing USA weightlifters and wrestlers.
In my case, I started laughing to myself when I looked around and saw all the young, stretched faces in the yoga class. They were trying so hard to master a pose when all they had to do was relax and smile.
The joke, of course, is that you can’t come to this realization until you’ve practiced an art for at least 5 years, for a very spiritually evolved soul, and 10 - 20 years in the majority of other instances. If you relax and have fun you’re going to make way more progress. It’s just hilarious that we have to wait until the end to figure it out.
They were never really advancing, and never really going anywhere. When you get to the end, you realize that flexibility is the least important aspect of yoga asana, a mere byproduct of increased awareness. And the only way to come to this realization is through painful, foolish exertion.
Just the way the universe planned it out.
It’s a wonderful practice.