In a conversation some time ago I had with David Williams, we were talking about how to step away from your practice and view the bigger picture. Stepping back and seeing the forest (yoga) for the trees (asanas). He was trying to impart that one should be approaching any yoga practice with a constant eye toward the longevity of that practice. “How can I approach my practice today, so I can still be practicing effectively and healthily 20-30-50 years from now.” When I began to really dig deeper into this concept, I realized I was often only practicing for right now! “How can I go deeper and push harder for some more immediate results.” For all students this will eventually result in one or both of these occurrences;
1) You are getting very advanced at intensely practicing frustration. There is a time and place to “get after it”. The practice, however, should not be a constant epic battle in every breath. Is it possible for you to stop “practicing” and just breath and enjoy the process of getting from point A to B? The beauty is the “practicing” part will happen over time with consistency wether you are “getting after it” or not. Yoda: “There is no try, only do.” Stop trying paddle and maneuver in the stream so much and just start to move WITH it.
2) You are also getting good at learning how to injure yourself. For more on this see almost every other Blog entry here, especially; Thoughts On Yoga For Life.
It has been in my mind now for quite a while that there may be a huge disconnect as to our Western approach to Yoga vs. the historical Eastern approach. This can be due to many things, some of the greatest being how it is advertised by various trendy magazines, trendy studios, and simply not understanding (instructors at fault mainly) how asana was intended to be approached.
Here it is in a nutshell in my opinion. Westerners make yoga a BIG DEAL. It is cool, hip, and trendy. We buy all the magazines, clothing, totes, bags, mats, shirts with “yogic” phrases, bumper stickers, etc. We tell out friends we are heading to yoga class as if its a big deal. I completely understand this all and have been guilty of most of it at some point!
However, here is another point of view that… it is not a BIG DEAL. In theory your practice should simply just be a regular part of you daily activity. Get up, drink coffee, poo, yoga, and then on to the rest of the day. And yes I said poo. It literally is meant to be part of the pre-asana ritual. If you dont make it such an EVENT, then you have a much better shot at simply doing it daily and then moving on. Then it becomes less of an event and more of a lifestyle! This is what it was MEANT to be.
Again, I understand how it has been made into a big deal. The Western working world does not necessarily allow us to practice every day consistently, especially once you add in kids, family, and the dozen other activities you are probably trying to take part in during the week. To me, this makes it even more important to treat it like no big deal. If you only get to practice now and then due to scheduling, you are more apt to push harder to make up for lost time. = ouch I always hurt so much after practicing.
Epiphany! Approach your yoga in a way that makes you overjoyed to get on the mat every day. Run gleefully toward your mat as opposed to dragging yourself there because you know you HAVE TO or SHOULD. Stop “practicing” in every breath and simply sip each one and enjoy it to its fullest extent. As a teacher, I really dont give a Savasana as to what your physical abilities may be. I am excited about progress of course, but am truly blessed when I get to watch “practice” slowly fade into joy!
Epiphany #2! No breath in your life is any more important than any other one. You kind of really just need them all. *** More on this in the next piece discussing the reasoning behind Pranayama!***
SIDE NOTE: Due to several personal injuries and life changes over the last year or so, my personal daily asana practice has been altered more than I would like. Within the last several months I was basically down to meditation and pranayama due to a severe hamstring injury (thank you rock climbing). Within the last month I had the first cold I have had in about 13 years and the first resurgence of back pain as well. Started practicing yoga daily about 13 years ago. Hhmmmm.
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