Yoga can be a mysterious and seemingly unnatural way of moving and living. Whether you’re just starting out or trying to move your yoga practice forward, there can be some frustration or bewilderment involved.
It might seem like no matter how much you try or take classes you just aren’t making much progress. Either things haven’t quite clicked or you just feel stuck.
There are a few very important concepts to adopt in order to move forward and develop a deeper understanding of the practice.
Understand Holism. Yoga is a holistic wellness practice...not just poses. Even if you’ve come to yoga simply to gain more calm and flexibility, forward movement requires a holistic approach. The eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga) described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, tell us just this. In order to fully embrace yoga and draw out all of its power and benefit, you must participate in all areas of life consciously and healthfully.
Be kind, watch what you put in your body, and watch what you think with your mind. Yoga is at its most potent when you're living your life in the most thoughtful way possible.
Be an Explorer, not a Conqueror. Of course everyone has goals with their yoga practice. It may be a certain feeling you seek or the attainment of an advanced posture. When you feel a sense of disappointment or the urge to push yourself in an unloving way, you’re missing a truly magical aspect of this practice. Our time on the yoga mat is a time for discovery. We’re discovering all of the wonderful things our body can do and feel. We get to learn about new sensations and explore the range of our thoughts and emotions.
Play with the poses, enjoy the sensations, and let whatever happens happen. Be committed to the moment and not obsessive about the goal. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali states: “Abhyasa vairagya tat nirodhah” Practice and non-attachment are the channels through which you master the self. The beauty and mastery of yoga lies in exploration.
Be Consistent. Practice. Practice. Practice! We have to learn to become more comfortable in our own skin during yoga practice to make any real progress. The only way to achieve that level of comfort is to do the poses over and over again. The same is true of how we live our lives off of the mat. We have to practice kindness by being aware of our emotions and the feelings of others. We practice self care by making ourselves a priority on a consistent basis.
Every time you step on a yoga mat, you are a different person. Your feelings today are different from yesterday and tomorrow will be different from today. Learning to adapt to whatever you’re working with in the moment, allows you a level of understanding that can come in no other form. Your dedication and passion (tapas) are what burn out old patterns and habits and create new ones.
Work with an expert. As with most things, there is someone out there who knows more than you do on the subject of yoga. They’ve practiced and gone through what you’re experiencing now. Ask questions, take lessons, and humble yourself to the knowledge and care of someone who wants to move you forward. You can grown leaps and bounds with the right teacher, class, or even a good book on the subject.
Yoga is life itself. It must be treated with the same reverence as you’d treat your own existence. It is not an exercise or a tool to make you look and feel a certain way, but an expression of your being. If you honor yoga in this way, it will express itself by healing you, grounding you, and making you whole. Yoga, by definition, is the yoke or union between all of existence. In order to master this practice, you need the grace, self love, and passion for mastering life!