As I have mentioned in previous articles, I used to be a computer programmer. I enjoyed this since each program was a giant puzzle to be solved. There was a limited set of commands that the computer could understand, but an infinite number of variables. The goal was to write a program that was elegant using commands and variables efficiently. In my programming career, my projects ranged from security systems to calculators for the visually impaired to graphics for a television show. Though they were all written in the same computer language, the language was applied differently in each project.
When I attempt a new yoga pose, there are times I feel like I am programming again. I know what the pose is supposed to look like, but what body part goes where and in what order? Out of all of the possible movements, which ones will take me there?
Overall, human bodies are very much alike. As with any other type of organism, there is a general template for humans. We all have the same organization of limbs, joints, and organs that are placed in the same areas. We can distinguish a human from all of earth’s other creatures.
Some of the larger yoga workshops that I have attended have had over 100 participants. In one workshop I left the room for a few minutes and when I came back, everyone was doing a seated forward bend. Since everyone was facing away from me, at first glance they all appeared to be identical. They were doing the same pose and I couldn’t see anyone’s face. As I looked around, I began to distinguish individual differences. Some people were folding quite deeply; others were a little stiffer. A few were obviously working with injuries. It quickly became apparent that everyone was doing their own pose even while they were part of the larger group.
Within our human template there is an amazing amount of variation. While some are challenged to touch their toes, contortionists can fold themselves into all types of positions. There are those who can add huge columns of numbers easily in their heads, singers with perfect pitch, artists, scientists and philosophers. Some of us are introverts, some extroverts. Some are naturally organized, some are not. For each trait we have, there is usually an opposite trait that describes another person. Each of us has our own combination of traits that make us who we are and different from everyone else.
One aspect of yoga is an appreciation of our individuality. While being part of a forest, we are still our own trees. Even within our similarities there are infinite variations. We live our lives our own way, following our own path, different from everyone who has come before us and from everyone else who will follow.