In response to the question = Isn’t there always some level of wanting to get good at practice?
Why? The why you do, is more important than what you do? A true yogi, or anyone who would like to live in a better society...create a more enlightened society, needs to start with themselves. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Self inquiry is the highest form of maturity." I agree. Start asking your self the question, "why?" And if the answer is anything less than noble...then it's time to course correct.
Back to the question above...if your mindset is that of one-up-manship, competition, or just showing off your awesome skills, you're actually diminishing and detracting...from yourself and your fellows. Instead of competition...try creation. Creating a better you. The ego will try to bring shades of gray into the answer of why? But truly, it can be pretty black and white. There is a part of you that knows the truth. Listen to that. Work hard...not so much to show everyone how awesome you are...but how awesome they can be. Become an example of goodness.
There are way too many people out there trying to look good and it's not working. Be good. A high aim indeed...difficult at first...but with practice, it can become easy and your regular mode of operation.
There’s really no place in our yoga practice for anxiety, but sometimes it creeps its way in. For example, we might find that we dread a certain pose, perhaps a balancing pose, or navasana, or that bind in marichyasana D is still giving us a hard time, or we worry about remembering our Ashtanga sequence if we haven’t kept up with our practice, and the anxiety that leads up to that pose or that practice steals energy away from what we are doing at the present moment.
There’s no need to be anxious, but that is easier said than done. Here’s one way to eliminate anxiety. We can work to pay attention to only what we are doing in the present moment and let go of the outcome. Whether in our yoga practice or in any situation, the more focused on the present we are, the less time and space there is to become anxious. Do what needs to be done and move on.
This takes serious practice – staying present – and that is the work of our yoga and meditation practice. It is constant effort, and we must remind ourselves again and again to come back to where we are now and what we are doing. It’s not always easy, but to do this is to be free. Diligent practice = freedom.
Enjoy the Moment
I have to admit that sometimes, when I start thinking about all the things that need to be done on any given day, it can cause anxiety.
The problem is that if I start to let my mind travel in that direction, I never enjoy the moment I am in. In actuality, everything in the moment is usually good if I can pay attention to and appreciate where I am and what I am doing.
We learn this in yoga as well. If you begin your Asthanga practice and think about all the postures that you must do before you can rest, you won’t enjoy the one you are in. You’ll create undo stress, and when you are not present, you really aren’t practicing yoga. In Vinyasa, if you do a string of poses on one leg, and then you start to think about having to do them all again on the other side, you won’t be able to focus on your breathing and the details of the pose. You won’t be able to feel what you are doing and enjoy the moment you are in.
So be on the lookout for times like these. Take a deep breath. Pay attention to where you are and what you are doing and enjoy that moment for all it is worth.
The Basics Jason has often said in class, “An advanced technique is a basic one that is mastered.” While reading the blog post today from the author of Buddha’s Brian, Rick Hanson, Ph.D., I was reminded about how this is true for more than just your yoga practice.http://networkedblogs.com/qST8j?a=share&ref=nf Let’s take it back to our yoga practice. To be the best we can be, we need to take a look at our foundations. For example, if you’ve ever practiced sun salutations for an extended period of time, you start to notice more subtleties within your body, and even though you may have done thousands of them, each one becomes new and slightly different. Your breath becomes smoother, your inward focus becomes deeper, your movements may start aligning more closely with your even breathing. So remember, next time you practice, be on the lookout for times when you start to run on autopilot, especially when moving through familiar postures. Use that as an opportunity to master the basics – breath and posture. ~ Lisa
As I was reading this article in the New York Times, "The Joy of Quiet," I realized that for many people finding some space and time for silence is considered a luxury:
At Detroit Yoga, we offer a space to practice in virtual silence, with nothing to listen to but the sound of our breath (and cues from the teacher). If you are not used to silence, it can perhaps feel uncomfortable at first - as a society, we've become so addicted to distractions to keep us from our own selves. As Blaise Pascal stated, "Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries."
Our aim in yoga, through the physical asanas and meditation, is to still the mind. By eliminating the surface distractions that just give us temporary pleasure, we are working to create a deeper level of peace and stillness, something long-lasting.
For me personally, when I spend too much time on the computer or in front of a screen, I feel empty and irritated. It's through the silence of my yoga and meditation practice that I feel healthy and whole again.
Yoga is full of great discoveries. The first major discovery I clearly recall is the day when deep breathing automatically kicked in. I was in the office on a particularly stressful day where my office mate's anxiety levels were also rising. All of the sudden the stress must have peaked and I realized my body was breathing deeply all by itself. Calm, even breaths, just as we do in practice! The sound and movement of my breath quickly drew my spiraling thoughts into sharp awareness. The moment I acknowledged these thoughts, they dissipated immediately. I was left with a sense of calmness and clarity. I was able to see what needed to happen, devise a plan for it within moments, and successfully execute it.
I now find that deep breathing often kicks in automatically: in moments of stress, in high anxiety environments, when lifting heaving objects or making swift movements, just to name a few. The breath draws our thoughts into focus, into the now, closer to the truth and reality of the moment. With a calm mind we are more aware of our surroundings. We are also then able to witness so much more and often find that life is full of comical moments. Life becomes a little less serious and becomes more entertaining.
In yoga practice, as well as in other activities and endeavors, when we achieve something or "get" something, we'll often say, "I did such and such today!" This is a mistake...whether we're talking about a difficult yoga posture, or a New York Times best selling book, the work was done way before the achievement. All of the weeks, months, and years of practice and work that came before "that" day is what made it happen. Very, very rarely, are there over-night successes. Anything of value worth having or creating takes patience and hard work. Michelangelo had this to say about the two... "Genius is eternal patience," and "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all." He clearly knew something that many of us are ignorant to...and, had an employer that we should all strive to work for.Stay True,Jason
I love this quote attributed to Mark Twain. “They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it.”
I recently viewed a video on YouTube of B.K.S. Iyengar from the 1970s:
He must have been around 60 years old.
It makes me realize that we really don’t know what our limits are. Yes, we will get older and “things” will come up, but do you resign yourself to the fact that you won’t or can’t do certain things as you age? I never would have guessed I’d start yoga at age 34 and end up teaching it. I’d never guessed that I’d be in the best shape in my life at 46, both physically and mentally.
Why set limits? It’s better to just to prepare yourself to work as hard as you can for as long as you can in order to be the best you that you can be instead of deciding that you can’t or that it’s too late.
Arthur C. Clarke, one of my favorite authors, once said, “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” Are you ready?
Injuries are a great teacher of patience. No matter what physical activity you pursue, at some time you may suffer from some injury. What I love about Ashtanga Yoga is that you can usually modify in some way in order to keep practicing. Certainly, there are cases when time off is much needed for healing, but with most minor injuries, you can modify your Ashtanga practice so that you can keep practicing to breathe, be attentive, patience, persistent, calm, and focused while still maintaining some strength and flexibility.
When I needed hand surgery to repair a cut tendon, all I could think about was losing my Yoga practice. Being persistent and committed to my practice though, I was able to still practice Ashtanga – even with a cast and a splint. For months, I had to modify sun salutations and all vinyasas until I could once again use my arm. Still, I had limited wrist movement, but I continued to practice a modified Ashtanga five days a week. Looking back now, those four months seemed like such a short time.
So if you are injured, don’t despair. Be patient as you heal. Remember the impermanence of the injury, and remember the importance of maintaining your practice.
The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
I love books. As a former English teacher, books were what I did. Reading and writing about reading. Reading about what people were reading. So I read. I read lots of books at one time. I read some all the way through, and some I skip around in.
If you love books, too, then you might want to join my Goodreads page. I listed books I have read, some maybe not all the way through in order, but great reference books. I kept my list here limited to Yoga and related books: