When I tell some people I practice Yoga, I sometimes get:
“aww that must be relaxing”
“you must be flexible”
“you must be relaxed”
“oh, are you vegan / do you like kittens / have you been to india” (just kidding on this one)
None of these are true. The truth is real Yoga is tough and change is slow. But that’s ok, I think the real benefit may come through the art of practice rather than the result.
Where am I with my Yoga practice? I dabbled for the last few years, however a complete lack of consistency or regular practice means I have not progressed much in terms of flexibility or strength.
However it has gradually affected my sense of my own body, by that I mean I am much more aware of individual muscles, joints and various sensations etc.
Now that I am in Tokyo for a break for a month or so and have some free time I decided to try and get into a habbit of an almost daily practice. I figured if I could focus on getting into the rhythm while I am not too busy with work, it would be easier to continue when I am busy. Let’s take a look at progress:
I started out strong with three days in a row, but have since defaulted to alternate days. This is really based on how I feel each day. After three days in a row I felt I was getting stiffer, hence the rest days.
I am only six days in, in terms of practice days, but I had some observations.
- Every morning I feel totally different in terms of energy to practice
- Mostly I don’t want to practice, although one day I was really energised for it
- Generally I find the first half of the practice really hard work
- I always feel good after the practice
- In the last two practice I was literally bouncing down the street afterwards listening to audioslave at high volume!
What do I practice? I should mention that I currently practice the Ashtanga primary series, although I am not capable of some of the moves yet. Ashtanga is a reasonably authentic yoga which is composed off a number of moves in a set sequence. There are a couple of big benefits of Ashtanga in my view
- It requires quite a bit of strength; you are lifting your body up and down off the mat a lot, so it’s good for those of us who want a strong physique.
- It’s a set sequence so as you get used to it you can use your mental energy to focus on the body and various minor details rather than thinking about which poses to do in what order.
- It comes from a respected teacher and lineage and there are quite a few experts out there who can provide quality instruction.
- Like various other forms of Yoga, your not only exercising your body, but also getting a lot of oxygen into your body with the correct breath and through correct technique helping energy and fluid etc. circulation in the body.
Here are a couple of videos of parts of the Ashtanga practice:
- David Swenson – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf4mjtnSA40
- Kino McGregor – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUlmW18C9Tg
While I do practice Ashtanga I would add that I did take 1-1 lessons in Iyenger before. In Iyenger a lot of postures are the same, but there tends to be a lot more time in each pose and more focus on finer details. I think occasional Iyenger instruction could potentially really help get more out of the Ashtanga practice.
Trying to get into an almost daily practice is a real experience and a challenging one. I can definitely see the benefits on the days I practice, but each morning it’s a mental fight to overcome laziness and start the practice.
I do think this will get easier as my condition and mindset improves..
I think to any beginner Yogi’s out there I would say that perhaps these beginning stages of trying to practice are among the most difficult, we have to deal with:
- Initiating a new habbit
- Trying to generate energy and motivation to practice when not in good condition
- Strength to stretch and move with tight or weak muscles and joints
- Fighting the human urge for quick results and putting the work into the practice for the sake of the art of practice itself.
I would be really interested to hear from other Yogi’s and their thoughts, so please get in touch if you’d like to be friends.