Is there such a thing? Maybe the term is an oxymoron, after all, there is no pass/fail in yoga.
Or perhaps I mean trying a difficult yoga pose and not being able to get into it, not even close. or maybe I’m talking about falling on my face in crow pose, or my low back going out in an overenthusiastic twist, held a hair too long.
A “yoga fail” could be a Bikram-style competitive yogi expecting to win her latest yoga competition, or at least place, but does not.
I mean none of these things. I’ll tell you my story, then you may decide whether or not there could be such a thing as a “yoga fail.”
It is a gorgeous sunny summer Sunday. I roll out my mat atop the dandelion and clover-flled grass on Mt. Washington’s Grandview Park. I prefer this outdoor spot over all others in Pittsburgh: South Side Works, Schenley Plaza, the Point, because those lawns are sprayed with chemical weed killer, as manifested by their green lawns, unbroken by the sunburst of dandelions. I admit I turn my nose up at weedless lawns. I prefer to keep my mat away from them.
Grandview Park is full of weeds and ants and the buzzing of bees. Plus no other place has such a fantastic view of the city. I ignore the cigarette butts and candy wrappers littering the area (after all, there was a free movie here last night). I sit cross-legged on my mat, close my eyes, breathe deeply, wait for class to begin.
We move through warm-up asanas into the sun salutation flow. In Chataranga Dandasana (push up pose) my nose catches the smell of fresh earth, and I decide I no longer want my sticky mat between me and the earth. When we’re up on our feet I take a step sideways and feel the cool grass under my feet, mother earth pressing back, supporting me. Instantly I am more grounded, more connected with nature. Sun warming me from above, the cool earth below.
Breathe in arms up, exhale down. I place my hands on the ground by my feet and OW! Ow, ow, ow, ow. My middle finger has landed on a honey bee. The pain is shockingly piercing and continues to get more and more severe. Everyone around me is at peace, moving with the flow of the asanas. Do I scream? Stop? Call attention to myself? I do none of these things. On the ground is the bee, who has died instantly after the sting, stiff, motionless. I gently pick it up by its wing and walk quietly to the garbage, my finger still screaming in pain yet my face calm and yoga-like. I bid the bee farewell and return to my mat, finishing my practice. By the end the pain in my finger has diminished, yet the bee is still dead.
What of ahimsa, non-violence? I have taken an innocent life today with my yoga practice. In my desire to connect with the earth I have killed one of her most gentle, industrious and important creatures.
Is that not, indeed, a yoga fail?