Progress. This is just how we’re wired these days. Things need to be achieved. Boxes ticked off. No, not just the big stuff, school, studies, degree, first job (and a good one, please!), success at work, the ‘perfect’ partner… It’s true for the small things in life as well – by the way: what’s on your to-do list for today? Who replied “nothing”, back there, in the last row? Please stand up?
So no wonder that this infiltrates our approach to hobbies and everything we do outside our to-do list, during that time when we’re not busy crossing out stuff on there. If there’s time left, that is. For most of us, there’s no time left, which is why something like yoga needs to be added to that list. If it’s not on there but just something we enjoy doing in our “FREE” time, well – then it just never happens.
While this is a good thing to do and shows we’re valuing our yoga-time (it’s like an appointment with ourselves, isn’t it?), we’re just getting even more stuck in this whole progress / achievement way of thinking. How you can tell? Well, have you been asking yourself one of the following questions recently:
- Am I getting better at yoga?
- When will I be finally able to master this posture?
- Why can’t I reach my toes?
- How many calories did I burn in this lesson?
- When will I be given a new posture by my teacher?
It’s like quicksand. By the time you realise you’re stuck, it’s a little late. And once you’re in there, “to remove a foot from quicksand at a speed of .01 m/s would require the same amount of force as that needed to lift a medium-sized car“.
No, you don’t wanna get stuck in this way of thinking. It’s not FUN. It means you’re entering into a competition with yourself. You’re demanding that your body please deliver measurable success. You want to tick boxes. You want to achieve things. There’s almost nothing I hear more often after a couple of beginner’s classes than the question: “Do you think I am making progress?”
The honest answer would be: How the hell do I know? Sure, I can tell you if your hamstrings are less tight, if your back bends are deeper, I can check my watch to see if you’re holding your headstand longer. But I cannot tell you if you’ve made real progress.
Only one person can tell if you’re making progress: YOU.
I’m a little addicted to Swami Sivananda’s easy-peasy replies to some of mankind’s most difficult questions. So here’s another piece I’ve come across – let’s chew on it together.
It’s about how to tell if you’re making progress in your practice:
Peace, cheerfulness, contentment, dispassion, fearlessness and an unperturbed state of mind under all conditions indicate that you are advancing on the spiritual path. [...] Has your personal awareness come to a possession of a sense of peace and strength which men who are not aspirants do not find in their everyday lives?
Do you feel certain that your power of discrimination and light of thought have been steadily growing? [...] Has there come into the conscious activities of your everyday life, the active function of a new delightful angle of vision, a new perspective, a strong sense of self-possession, a steadily growing conviction of your dependence upon and intimate relation with the all-pervading Divinity? [...]
Granted, he talks about spiritual progress. But how about we try this: Seeing the physical and spiritual as one and the same thing?
I know. How radical. It might require a change in the way we think. The way we see ourselves. Our mind AND body. Because let’s face it: Do we want to be great yogis – or great gymnasts?
Oh and by the way, do you know how they say you’ll manage to get out of quicksand? Wiggle the legs as slowly as possible in order to reduce viscosity, try spreading your arms and legs far apart and lying prone to increase your surface area, which should allow you to float.
Let’s FLOAT instead of lifting medium-sized cars!