The ancient hatha yoga texts are like cookbooks. They are full of recipes, descriptions of procedures, lists of ingredients, and notes on what results to expect. A yoga practice is a process just like cooking a meal is a process. Both can have a clear intent at the beginning: In cooking, a nourishing aesthetically pleasing meal; in yoga, a state of mind that can see the truth without wavering. In both yoga and cooking the better your skills, the better the results.
One important skill in cooking is the ability to understand the nature of your ingredients. All the ingredients have their basic character. From pepper, to potatoes, to pomegranates, each ingredient has an essence that has to be honored if the dish is to attain its ultimate expression. In real cooking there is no such thing as the perfect ingredient. We are constrained by the availability of what we need. We can’t expect the world or ourselves to produce out of season.
In yoga we wish to liberate the truth of ourselves so that we can taste our own beauty. The ingredients of an asana practice are flesh, mind, and breath. Your flesh and bones have a basic nature, they have a genetic and personal history that must be honored. Your mind has a quality different than other minds. The voice in your head is heard by no one else. Your breath has a character.
In your practice this week take some time to just savor the fact that you have what you have, and you can do whatever you can do. Tell yourself as you do poses that your legs have what it takes to support you, your arms and chest can be free and expressive, your breath can be one with the breathing of the planet. Do not bemoan the nature of your ingredients, for within them is the true flavor of who you are. You are a sacred chef involved in the feeding and care of your spirit. All that you need is within you right now. Just start doing poses, and if you are breathing, your cupboard will not be bare.