Over the years, I’ve stumbled, gotten a yoga teacher training certification, lost motivation and then came back on to the mat again. Though I faced other challenges when it comes to yoga, the biggest challenge by far is to keepa regular practice – to make it stick to your daily lives as solid as that mandatory cup of coffee every morning.
In my humbling journey, I’ve acquired several lessons to keep my practice going, and which hopefully, will help others too.
Find the right style for you
When I first started yoga, I dived straight into Ashtanga yoga. It felt right at that time. Coming from an athletic background, I craved adrenaline. I needed my practice to be fast and challenging. But the more I practiced, the more I discovered myself. I didn’t, in fact, want a fast paced workout. I wanted to connect with my body. I was looking for stillness and silence. I wanted to move to my own rhythm. Ashtanga made this difficult. And so, I let go of my ego and worked on another yoga style – Vinyasa yoga. It gave me both a challenge and the freedom I was looking for.
That was my first lesson. The yoga that you want isn’t always going to be the yoga that you need. Learn to discern what your body and mind needs and then be open to changes in your practice. Be ready to try out other styles to see what suits you best.
Find the right teacher
My yoga practice was never the same and never consistent before I found the right teacher for me. The partnership between teacher and student helped me build a solid practice that I can work with daily. My teacher’s presence is a constant in a world of movement. His guidance in all things asana and yoga sutras has helped me along, and no doubt will continue to guide me on this journey.
This was my next lesson. Finding the right teacher is the ultimate key to keeping to your practice. The right teacher will be able to help you find focus when you lose it, motivate you when you don’t feel like stepping on the mat, inspiring you when you need it most, and keep you grounded when you lose your footing.
Allow yourself to fall, then get back up
As a newly minted yoga teacher, I walked in with confidence to my first class. I expected the class to go well, and that my students would appreciate my vast knowledge. I couldn’t be more wrong. Teaching my first class was nothing short of a nightmare. I stumbled at every point of the class and my students couldn’t understand my cues. I had failed. Yet, that failure was necessary. It taught me to look at my own practice with fresh eyes. It humbled me and reminded me that I am always a student first. It reminded me that even as I teach, I learn too.
Lesson three. As cliché as it may sound, you need to allow yourself the opportunity to falter in your practice. Failure teaches many things, and amongst it, humility. Even if that challenging asana seems unattainable, try it anyway. If you fall and you fail, get back up. You learn more things from trying and letting go than not attempting at all.
There is always Balasana
I came to a point where I practiced every day, sometimes twice a day. Asana wise, I was making progress. I was building strength and flexibility. But I was also very tired. My body ached from being overworked. My mind was exhausted. I needed rest but I wasn’t listening to my body. Instead I pushed and pushed, until I injured my wrist. Being forced to rest was a blessing in disguise. I came back rejuvenated and refreshed. My practice became pleasant and enjoyable again.
Lesson four. Listen to your body. Rest when you need to. Let your body recuperate when it is tired and aching. Remember that yoga encourages rest too. Balasana is a rest pose after all. Pushing yourself forward is good, but taking a step back is also beneficial. Give your body time to heal. This way, you don’t burn out so quickly.
Direct the focus inwards
Early on in my yoga journey, I made my practice about others. In class, my eyes would wander to the rest of the students. Were they struggling like me? Was I doing better? Why can’t I do that pose like her? This constant comparison made it difficult for me to concentrate. It also made it almost impossible for me to connect my breath to movement. As a result, instead of stillness, I found pandemonium. Instead of calm, I found restlessness.
Remember this final lesson. The practice of yoga is yours and yours alone. There is no competition. No race to compete against anyone else. Be reminded of this as you practice. When practicing in a class with others, learn to direct your focus inwards instead of towards others. Don’t make the execution of an asana about being the best in class. Remember that your journey and your progress belong to you. Not others.
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