The sliding scale

On a scale from ascetic to heroin addict, some consider me an aspiring yogi.

The "unruly" is the important part of my label as an ascetic and as Sharath would remind me, I'm not a big yogi.  Most people consider my life as a traveling student of ashtanga yoga to be pretty disciplined, practicing in the wee hours (debatable middle of the night), ethical vegetarianism, and a steady, if not absolute avoidance of seriously mood altering substances (coffee doesn't count, no coffee: no prana).  To some, my self administered discipline is borderline excessive.  But to others, I'm a far cry from the potential asceticism life offers.

The productive window of behavior on that scale of discipline to chaos is a challenge to gauge.  It is in this challenge, this constant daily struggle to determine what actions fuel my growth and which ones box me in, that is the real yoga.

I used to think that the yoga happened in the attempt to push my box from the center of the sliding scale toward the ascetic end. The more austere my life became, the more successful I was as a wannabe yogi.  At least, I was told that this was how it works.

Turns out that's not true.

We each have a window of experience that serves us.  And within this window, we are but a single point.  

Correction: along this scale we are but a single point.

Ideally, we live our lives within the window of experience, along the scale of discipline to chaos, that challenges us and reigns us in as necessary for our growth from darkness to light.
But sometimes we misjudge.  Sometimes we get in over our heads or fail to challenge ourselves. These are the times when we have managed to stray too far in one direction or another. We've stepped out of our window of productive experience.  We recognize this mistake instinctively.  
Sometimes it's as a result of someone else's influence.  
Sometimes it's as a result of thinking that if one thing made us happy, more of it is would make us more happy! 
Sometimes it's out of laziness.

Whatever the reason, we find ourselves at a point of unproductivity. It is at these points that we are required (often by friend and family, but really only ever ourselves) to move back toward a place of growth. 
But damnit all if that isn't a hard thing to figure out on our own.

That's why we practice. Whatever your practice is. If it brings you back to a place of productivity, then it is your yoga.

More on this later...