Yoga Minded: 29 March 2014: Getting Better?
In yoga classes we are often learning how to go deeper into poses, learning ways to open the body and how to improve our practice.
At the same time we are being told that ‘it’s not about the asana’ and ‘it doesn’t matter how far into a pose you go – be content with where you are now’.
How can both of these ideas be right?
So first I’d say that ‘getting better’ in asana doesn’t just mean being able to touch your toes – it means being stronger and more flexible physically and mentally, it means being more comfortable and at ease in our body and more focused, more aware in our mind. It means being more relaxed and more energized.
Secondly I’d say that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to progress and be the fullest possible expression of yourself, wanting to transform and evolve and grow and ‘get better’ at asana. It’s a natural human response to experience pleasure when we accomplish a difficult task and learn to do something we couldn’t do before. Simple pleasure in our achievements and progress is normal and natural and healthy.
What’s not so helpful or healthy is getting fixated on being able to do something, getting competitive, getting jealous of other people who can do more than you and feeling that you are lacking or inadequate because you can’t do them.
So the first part of the trick is to be content with what you can do now, fully accept yourself, this a powerful and beautiful place to be. But if you just did that nothing would change and there’d be no transformation and no fun, so at the same time, work towards improving and being the most you can be. Even if nothing changes and you never ‘get better’ in your asana practice,there are still many valuable things to be learned in the process of trying.
The second part is to stop looking outside your self for happiness and fulfillment. Looking outside for something to fill the feeling of lack just makes it worse, look for the happiness inside and you might just find it.
Melanie Cooper has been teaching yoga for 16 years, and training yoga teachers for eight years. She divides her time between London and Goa, practicing and teaching yoga and sometimes dancing on the beach. She currently runs the morning ashtanga self practice at The Life Centre in Islington and runs an annual teacher training at Brahmani Yoga in Goa and at Zolder Studio in North London, She has practiced at Ashtanga Yoga London for many years, and has also studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Melanie lives in North London.