The Cycle Repeats
It all comes down to perspective.
Many years ago, when I was fairly new to Ashtanga Yoga (having about six years of an inconsistent practice under my belt), my Yoga teacher casually mentioned how stiff she was feeling that particular day. Meanwhile, a very seasoned Yogi in her own rite; in 2000, she was authorized to teach by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, and in July 2009, she was in the first group of 40 students to receive Level 2 Authorization – to teach the Primary and Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga.
How could she be stiff? Or even know what being inflexible meant anymore – just look at the positions she can put herself into…
It was a wonderful moment of realization for me – that elusive perspective.
All things are relative. Flexibility, strength, power, agility, fitness…it’s all relative to where you are presently. Even if you are a competitive athlete; first you have to relate to your present level of fitness/ability before you can compete against your opponent.
Therefore, when inactive or active people compare themselves to me or to others, I understand – their perspective dial is cloudy; they have forgotten.
Where YOU are right now is all that matters. Where YOU will be tomorrow is insignificant.
I think a lot about how I speak to children. I teach my children that if they fail they should try again…anybody need to hear the bicycle analogy? It’s the same for us. Just because we are adult doesn’t mean that we have to excel at our first, second or third attempts. Go back in time for a minute. Stop and explore an internal dialogue, which supports your efforts, with honesty and honest effort, without expectation. What does that dialogue sound like?
I was going to say: If you try, it will happen. But “IT” is an expectation in itself. Yoga is about being – being in the moment. Forget about “IT” and just be in the now.
Without being esoteric, what I’m trying to convey is that “IT” is simply in your daily practice. The daily self-guided practice can be applied to everything we do (your 4 minute morning, your HIIT workout etc.), because when we engage in a self-guided practice, we are teaching ourselves, we are learning about ourself.
“IT” is an endless process.
I think everyone would benefit from learning a self-guided yoga routine, be it short or long. There are variations for everyone at any level, be it modifications to suit lack of flexibility or for physical rehabilitation or for those with time restrictions. Here is a link for David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga Short Forms book, which has 15 minute, 30 minute and 45 minute routines which are well rounded.
Where I am today may seem very far in the future for those who are just beginning to exercise. It is just as important to not compare with me or others as it is of equal importance to NOT compare with what you were once able to do; remember that everything is relative. In the eyes of the novice, what I do might look advanced, but I can feel equally stiff and inflexible, much like my Yoga teacher from many years ago. An advanced position or posture still has room to grow. It’s only called advanced relative to the beginner.
Yoga is the physical therapy that we can apply to ourselves. Really, no one can help us better than we can help ourselves. Our bodyworkers (Yoga teachers, RMT’s etc.) are our guides. With their guidance and with our daily self-guided practice we become more in tune with how our body is functioning.
Each time I step on my Yoga mat or slip in the pool, I too feel like a beginner (in my own way). For each day is a new beginning, a new configuration of everything. My body alignment, movement patterning and understanding has changed from yesterday’s practice and so standing on my mat today I have to adapt to what feels unlike my old self. Essentially, each new day is a fresh start but with the gift of accumulated knowledge from previous days.
“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”
Below is an excerpt from an article written by Kino MacGregor, which I think explains very clearly the importance of the self-guided practice also known as Mysore Style. To view the complete article click here.
“Memorizing the postures allows students to focus internally, which is the real goal of yoga. When you do not know what you will be doing next your attention will always be on your teacher rather than within yourself.
Once you memorize the sequence of postures that your teacher determines is right for you the entire practice transfers deeper into the subconscious level. Practicing in the Mysore Style method allows you to have days where you go deeply into your practice and also days where you go gently into your practice while performing all the same postures. This natural variation prevents injury, trains you to listen to the body and increases internal body awareness.”
Mysore Style does not only have to apply to Ashtanga Yoga. I think it is paramount to view our daily body maintenance in this same way: Self-Guided Practice. A lot of people I know rely on a workout buddy to get their workouts done – but that is another conversation altogether.
“Things I love about Yoga… is that the deeper you scratch, the deeper it goes…”
~ Meghan Currie
Below is an inspiring time lapse video of Meghan Currie showing her daily practice.
Thanks again for this blog and your generosity with this information. Just wanted to let you know that someone has uploaded David Swenson’s whole series one video on youtube:
I used to have this on vhs years ago and remember it as really one of my faves. Not glitzy, but really well explained and thorough. What a find!
This IS quite the find. I’ve never seen this video – I just watched it. It is full of so much information – I hope others will take the time to view it (maybe in segments because it is so long). I will definitely post it to a main page.
You are very welcome, You As A Machine…..love sharing great info such as this.
Speaking of yoga, have you heard of Esther Ekhart? She is a great teacher and has a fantastic channel on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/yogatic/videos.
Great points. My flexibility seems pretty useless compared to other people (can’t even touch my toes), but I also have had a lot of times with issues where it was much worse. With practice I do get better, but only better compared to me. If I take a yoga or pilates class, I always look like a total doofus in comparison to everyone else, even when I know my improvement has been exponential.
That video is amazing. Makes it look so easy when i *know* it’s not.
Wow, thanks so much for sharing these videos, very inspiring. And again the proof that you don’t even need a mat to do yoga 😉
Really nice blog, btw!
i just started doing yoga a little while ago, and i have to say that i really enjoy it, and you are right when you say that “Things I love about Yoga… is that the deeper you scratch, the deeper it goes”..thanks for sharing as usual, i really love your blog.. 😀