Pema Chodron, a beloved Buddhist nun, devotes an entire chapter in her book The Wisdom of No Escape to inconvenience. “When you hear some teachings that ring true to you, and you feel some trust in practicing that way and some trust in it’s being a worthwhile way to live, then you’re in for a lot of inconvenience.” She tells this story about a Buddhist monk's travels out of Tibet when Communist China invaded:
A great group of Tibetans, maybe 300, left eastern Tibet with their guides. When they got to central Tibet, the guides didn’t know the way any longer, because they knew only eastern Tibet. Furthermore, the snow was so deep that it was up to their armpits, so the biggest monks went in front, prostrating their whole bodies in the snow and then getting up and prostrating again to make a path. At times they would go all the way up mountains, only to find that they had made a mistake and would have to come all the way back down.They didn’t have much food, and not only that, had they been discovered, they would have been shot by the Chinese. At one point they had to go through a river, and their clothes froze on them. If they tried to sit down, their robes cut their skin because the ice was so sharp. Not very convenient.
I am a sucker for convenience. I go to the grocer right off the train, even though their produce always go bad in a day or two. I drop off my laundry so I don’t have to waste 3 hours in the laundromat. I go to ATM’s from other banks, despite charges, because I don't want to walk the extra blocks to my bank. I watch bad television on Netflix because I can stream it instantly. Life is full of things to do and convenience makes it all the more bearable.
When I started understanding the spiritual side of yoga, everything changed. And Pema is right, nothing about spiritual exploration and commitment is convenient. And nothing about yoga asana is convenient. It’s not convenient to bind, or focus on ujjayi breath, or the bandhas. It’s definitely not convenient to work 10 hours every day and then go move my body in a sweaty yoga class for an hour and a half. It’s not convenient to always think about how my meals will affect my practice or worry about karma and rebirth in every action or thought I’m involved in, every moment of every day. Not very convenient.
But it’s worth it. I never look for convenience in my asana practice. I work hard and expect my teachers to expect me to work hard; I want to work hard. I bind, I breathe, I engage the bandhas as best I can. I leave my job and, somehow, despite exhaustion, eventually find myself happy to be on my mat. I consider asana in my meal (and drink) choices and I let my worries about karma and rebirth inform my every action.
I do it because Tibetans fled for their spiritual freedom. I do it because monks prostrated in the snow for the freedom of their people. I do it because they trusted that they would one day find refuge in India and, on that day, the inconvenience and suffering would be worth it.