Dealing with Challenges in your Yoga Practice
It's possible for it to take place in any particular class: you're on your mat, going through the motions, and your movements are in time with your breath. Your mind is eager and able, and your body has a flowing and powerful feeling to it. You have been working your way up to the top of the class, and as you do so, you glance up to watch the instructor display the asana that you have been working towards. You watch as the instructor enters the asana with ease and elegance, and you begin to entertain the possibility that you, too, may successfully complete the move. The possibilities of what you thought you could be capable of suddenly disintegrate in just a few tiny seconds as you attempt to get into the posture. You are unable to retain control of the strength in your body and/or access the necessary flexibility in your limbs at the same time.
The end outcome is that you will fall out. After what seems like a violent and never-ending fight to contort your reluctant body into a shape similar to a pretzel, you are left with precisely the opposite of what yoga is supposed to give you: a feeling of failure, embarrassment, and frustration.
I want to make it quite apparent that the image I'm trying to portray here is of myself. Because this has taken place in my life so frequently, I can almost picture it when I close my eyes. Over the course of my years spent practising yoga, I have participated in a large number of yoga classes, practises, and seminars, all of which have left me unable to do the peak posture. These experiences of (self-proclaimed) "failure" have provided me with some of the most important and helpful information that I could not have obtained in any other way.
I came up with two suggestions, both of which continue to be helpful to me in both my professional and personal life:
Recognize that there will always be someone who "does things better," and make peace with this reality.
You should expect that, just as in the rest of your lives, there will be aspects of your yoga practise that may provide difficulties and challenges for you. If you look at other people who seem to be able to perform the same things you are having difficulty with and compare yourself to them, you will surely end up feeling discouraged and unsure of yourself.
Your yoga practise is not something that is fixed; rather, it is something that will vary through time. Sometimes it will improve, and other times it will worsen. This is a fact of life, and the more easily you are able to "flow" with the various changes that occur in life, the more pleased you will be no matter where you are. Both when you are on it and while you are not. Maintain a strong relationship with oneself and focus your attention on yourself; doing so will assist you in remaining connected to your chosen path and practise. Maintain your connections, and you will become much more powerful as a result.
Don't take yourself so seriously; it's just yoga, after all.
This is something that one of the first people who taught me yoga would tell us if he noticed that we were becoming more critical of ourselves while we were pushing ourselves to the limit.
Develop a sense of humour and have fun with your practise! Having a sense of fun can lighten the burden of the challenge and lessen the blow if you are not successful in achieving what you desire. When we see how children play, there is a lot that we can learn from them. For example, when they make a mistake while performing a cartwheel or something else stupid, they laugh it off, get back up, and try again. Practice remaining playful in the present moment without holding to a predetermined conclusion. This will enable you to be lighthearted and have a beginner's mentality, which is a fantastic attitude to have in yoga as well as in life in general! Maintaining a positive attitude will help you become more adaptable.
Last but not least, examine your beliefs around the "proper" way to do a yoga pose.
Take note of the mind's propensity to pass judgement. The mind frequently wonders, "Am I doing this correctly?" or "Am I doing this well?" as a person is working on perfecting a stance. Are you striking a posture because you want to achieve a certain result (bringing your hands all the way down to your toes, forming a particular shape), or are you striking a pose because it makes you feel good in your body?
In recent months, I've developed an increased desire to lessen the amount of physical work that goes into my yoga practise.
I used to put in one hundred percent of my effort, but now I've found that putting in seventy or eighty percent of my effort is more beneficial to my physical well-being. I feel more vibrant and energised. While still maintaining the capacity to move and shift while in the posture, I am able to breathe considerably more deeply. Because of this, my experience is heightened on both the physical and mental levels. Always maintaining the distance gives me the opportunity to "ease" into my ideas as well. Therefore, once I become aware that my mind is beginning to suggest things such as "you're not doing enough," I bring my awareness back to my body and pay attention to how the asanas feel in my body (this process is known as "interoception"). When I am able to release the tight grasp that I have on my body, I am also able to release the tight grip that I have on my thoughts and appreciate the sensation that the practise provides.
Therefore, in place of "Am I doing this correctly?" I ask "How does it feel?" And if it doesn't make my body feel good, I don't see the value in continuing to do it. If I push through it, I won't become any stronger, nor will I become any more flexible.
Put yourself to the test and think beyond the proverbial box; instead, focus on just sensing the interplay between your body and your thoughts.