Controversial

“Am I getting better at Yoga?”

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.

Manage your free time wisely – and never forget to PLAY! ;)

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!

~ Andrea

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10 replies »

  1. My mom is turning 60 and we were talking about Yoga the other day and she made a comment in which she said “I’m pretty fit so I should be good at Yoga”. I said Mom – It’s not about how fit you are, everyone starts Yoga from where they are today and the poses will unfold as you breathe, and make space.

    I have been practicing Yoga for close to 5 years and I have had people ask Why I don’t do Crow or Crane. I just say this is where I am today. (Actually, I have a really bad cyst in my wrist so some poses are really painful). When really I wonder why does or should it matter to.

    I’m enjoying your blog.

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    • Hi Sarla,

      Thanks for your comment, that’s very kind of you. I started blogging last October, so not that long ago, but I really love the experience. It’s wonderful to be able to connect to fellow yogis literally all over the world!

      Andrea

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  2. Well said! I do feel that going through the process of wanting to “check off boxes” is a part of the practice- getting wrapped up in that perspective only to have that paradigm become shattered by the truth of practice. I enjoyed :) and I also like my coffee in the morning. Great blog!

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  3. Nicely written. It has taken me almost 45 years to realize that it is not always about checking off those boxes and pushing myself to the next level. We need to treat ourselves with kindness and love. Sometimes I have to let go of the perfection in an asana to realize the spiritual/mental perfection. Namaste

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  4. Andrea- this is such a good reminder. Sometimes doing less accomplishes so much more. I feel like a student who needs to write this on the chalkboard 1000 times- “will do less, will do less, will do less”….
    Beautiful.

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  5. Wow, great timing on your post! I went to my first Advanced Vinyasa class yesterday (after sticking with Mixed Level for about four months), and couldn’t seem to get out of my head. I was looking around the room, saying to myself things like: “Seriously, every other person in this room can do the full splits??” and trying to rush through my vinyasa so I wouldn’t be the last one. Clearly, I was not in the moment :-P

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  6. Great post, Often I look around a yoga class and see the amazing poses others are doing. I am quick to judge myself or think, why can’t I do that? Yet if I shift my perspective and acknowledge how far I have come in my practice, it is clear that yoga is a journey, a beautiful spiritual path and it doesn’t matter what the poses look like. Instead, I focus on how strong, balanced and flexible I feel and I choose to acknowledge my journey.

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