(please read in your most sarcastic tone)
Progress in Yoga is directly related to how strong & bendy you are. Once you can do both front & side facing splits, and hold a handstand for 30 seconds you reach enlightenment! Or at least that's what you could be led to think as you scroll endless images of "perfect" bodies doing impossible things with a moving quote by Buddha, Rumi or some-other wise soul!
(ok back to serious voice -kinda!)
Now don't get me wrong there is a HUGE benefit to having a physical asana practice.
I myself practice a strong flowing yoga style called Rocket Yoga, I am currently working towards both splits & handstand pressing, getting my legs behind my head etc etc.
I also seek other peoples bodies for inspiration of new & different ways to move & find space. To keep exploring this amazing set of flesh & bones that I have.
What is it capable of next?
However something that seems to get very easily lost is the fact that this movement of our bodies through certain shapes (asana) should not be focused on the outside aesthetic, but the internal work both within the muscles, joints, organs etc, and also the mind & spirit.
In fact the main reason physical asana was developed (many moons ago) was to allow those practising to sit comfortably for hours in meditation!!
Many people come to yoga as an alternative or complimentary exercise/recovery/therapy & as mobility and strength improve it is only natural to want to go further, to see how far down/up/pretzled (its a word go with it) we can get.
This is fine if it is done with curiosity, compassion & respect.
Unfortunately EGO gets in the way, we want to do what somebody else is doing with out knowing their reality, their struggle, how long they were there for (and what was photo-shopped out!! GASP I know but its true.) and when we don't succeed we feel like a failure!
WELL I'm here to tell you that the lady next to you was a gymnast for 15 years - she watches the TV in splits. That guy up in tripod headstand, yeah him, hes a swimmer so has abs & shoulders of STEEL! That handstand pic on the edge of a mountain was a snapshot with a huge amount of filter applied so you couldn't see the blurred foot as they fell out.
Now before you think I'm just hating on the things I can't do with my body (yet), I'm not, I am just keeping it real as I to got caught up in the whole "I'm not good at yoga 'coz i cant do lotus pose" & I'm a yoga teacher.
There are soooo many amazingly talented "real" yogis out there displaying amazing strength & control over their bodies but also highly dedicated to the Yoga Philosophy & have embraced it as a way of life.
There are also a bunch of "fake" bendy people who just put #yoga to get more likes!!
We all have our strengths & challenges, and real strength & satisfaction comes from overcoming things that challenge us! The trick is to not get so caught up in the end goal, to believe that being able to do "insert pose here" will bring happiness, but to enjoy all the little successes along the way both internally & externally. Practising with attention, kindness & compassion for yourself will bring soooooo much more rewards.
Is it easy? NO. Is it worth it? ABSOTIVELY-POSILUTELY!!
Yoga is an internal practice.
Asana, the ridiculous shapes we try and get ourselves into, is a way of getting out of heads & into our bodies, a distraction for our minds & so we can connect with our breath, our hearts & souls.
Using your physical practice as a way to explore the limitless & untapped potential of your body is great - I believe we all have the responsibility to be at our healthiest selves to allow us to serve our own needs & others.
This does not mean looking like magazine cover models, being a raw vegan, or never taking another paracetamol, but you will only truly find & appreciate what your BEST SELF could be when bring the wellness of your mind, life, relationships, the environment into consideration as well. Its a FREAKING JOURNEY but hey we might as well use our time on this planet, in this vessel for something good right!!
Remember having a cute butt, flexible hamstrings & a six pack doesn't make you GOOD AT YOGA.
I just want to clarify it also doesn't make you bad either!
Its got NOTHING to do with it!
Top Tips to practice GOOD Asana
1) enjoy it - NO EGO!!
2) respect your body - everyday is different.
3) check into a class every now and then for alignment & inspiration.
4) Do Your Best - that is always enough & all that you or anybody else should as of yourself!
This blogpost is an opening to me learning more & sharing more about Yoga Philosophy, the original ancient texts but also useful practical ways of how to apply it to modern life on & off the mat.
I hope you enjoyed it & I love to hear from you with any thoughts or questions
Namaste for now xXx