Most of us enter yoga through Asana. Maybe someone told you to try yoga to help your back or to relieve stress and you decided to try it. When you begin yoga, it is all physical. You try to grasp the technique and alignment and the learning curve is high. You fumble through your first few classes, usually at the back, in case someone sees you. You furtively glance at others, and in the mirror, to make sure that you look ok. It is an external practice.
Yoga is a journey from the externalized, distracted and often crazy flood of thoughts in our minds to the inner peace and wisdom of our deeper consciousness at our heart center. All of the poses, pranayama, meditation and mantras that we practice have a host of benefits for our bodies, minds and spirits, but they share a single goal: to bring us to a place where we can be silent, still and focused enough to connect with ourselves at the soul level. It is here where we access the deep well of wisdom that always has been within us. It is here where we find our inner guru.
You can make the shift and take your practice deeper, or you can keep it as a form of hamstring lengthening. Your choice. Here are some suggestions on how to take any practice further, whether it be in your relationships, playing sports or doing yoga.
- Practice: There is no avoiding this action, as obvious as it may sound. You can’t learn to play the piano by listening to others or reading books. You can’t get better at anything that you just dabble in. No, you have to practice every day. You also have to fail – a lot. Then, you have to get back on the horse and practice again. Some of it is going to be shocking; some of it will be great. Nothing should deter you. If you are writing, you need to sit down and just write, or even turn on your computer and type “I must practice every day” over and over again. If you are practicing yoga, then you need to roll out your mat every day. Studies that have focused on those individuals who have participated in 10,000 hours of practice in whatever they are working on have found that the brain actually changes after this amount of practice as whatever you are doing becomes more fluid and ingrained within you.
- Teachers: Find a good teacher, one that resonates with you. You can do all the home practice that you’d like, but if you don’t get feedback or new perspective, then you’ll flat line. You need others to see you for who you are and to take you to the next level. You need a teacher who can provide encouragement and support. You need a teacher who can give you suggestions and keep you on the path. If your teacher is not working for you, find a new one.
- Read: Broadly. Read everything you can on your subject.