We’ve all seen the beautiful yogis on instagram and the cover of Yoga Journal
holding an advanced yoga posture with a relaxed smile on their faces that lets you believe
that it is a breeze. Then when you make it home and try the same pose you fall flat on
your face. Or been in a yoga class holding a pose, feeling like the tension is unbearable
and that you have finally reached the pain thresholds breaking point, only to hear the
teacher say “Relax in the pose, and smile”, while inside your mind and body are
screaming “Are you freaking kidding me?!” You leave your mat wondering, how do they
do it? What is the magic secret?
As humans it is in our nature to be competitive. We always want to take the easy
way out instead of learning from the process. Taking the elevator up instead of using the
steps. Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha says, “When someone seeks then it easily happens his
eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take nothing in
because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means; have a
goal, but finding means; being free, being open, having no goal”. Meaning when we have
one goal, like a posture we are trying to master, we close out our minds to what can be
learned on the journey to get there. In yoga our failed attempts are just as important as
our successes. Like Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that
won’t work.” We learn from everything that we do and the fun is in the journey to get to our
goal not the goal itself. If everything just came easy with out work or effort, what would
be the fun in that? Sounds pretty boring to me. But taking time to appreciate the steps that
it takes to get there and constantly learning and expanding, now that sounds like an adventure!
This idea of appreciating the steps seems simple but it takes a little adjustment of our way of
thinking. And awareness to the concept of appreciating the journey, and celebrating the
failures and successes, and using yoga as an exploration of the body is the first step.
We start “becoming a master if our minds, and not a victim of our thinking”.
As a teacher I see students taking short cuts all of the time. I give students a
posture, giving all the modifications from beginner to advanced, stressing the whole time
that it is not how far you go in the pose but it is about listening to your body, creating
space, and keeping the alignment. Then I look around the room and everyone has jumped
right to the most advanced modification of the pose. Most people just skipped all the
steps just to get to what they think is the end posture. Since humans are competitive when
we have a goal in sight our mind and bodies will do whatever it takes to get to that goal.
Our bodies will get us into a posture that we are not ready for but that does not mean that
it is correct. Every posture is a set up for an even harder posture. Meaning if the set-up is
learned incorrectly eventually the student will have trouble advancing past a certain point
and will have to go back and relearn the correct alignment to get to the next level.
So what can we do to avoid skipping the steps? Well, we can start by using our
yoga practice as an exploration of the body. When we come in and out of poses feeling
them from the inside out. Asking ourselves how does this posture feel, what subtle
movements change the way this pose feels, where in my body do I hold tension? Taking
time to appreciate and thank the body. Moving with love not force. Once we create that
intention of focusing on love and gratitude we can start to cultivate and grow those
feelings. Suddenly bringing our practice off of our mats and into our everyday life.
Hopefully those feelings will resonate and connect to others. Making our practice
transformative and giving it more meaning. Then the practice moves away from just
trying to master a pose and becomes about finding a way to connect with others and our
own path to happiness. Making the practice a journey where every step is a learning
experience that we can use to transform and shape our lives.