Often students ask me: “Do you think I have made any progress in my yoga practice?” I find this question difficult to answer. With the question the students are referring mainly to their asana practice, and of course I can see how their asana practice has evolved; how their breath has become deeper, how their down dogs get more grounded, how they get stronger, or how their shoulders are more open in backbends and so on. But, what I don’t know is how the asana practice feels for them. (Well, actually, sometimes I can see that too, especially if it is a hard asana practice with a lot of core stabilisation ;-).)
If you are wondering the same, stop looking at your asana practice, but turn inside. Yes, the physical asana practice is one part of yoga, but there is so much more happening on the mat than mastering a yoga pose. Instead of thinking how your warrior poses look like, ask yourself: “How do I feel?”, “Am I more at ease?”, “Is my mind calmer?”. And, what’s even more important is to take these questions off the mat. If you’ve noticed that you are happy more often, experience joy frequently, don’t get irritated so easily and feel content with yourself and your life, you have definitely done progress in your yoga practice.
The asana practice is there for us to prepare us for life off the mat. As we all know, life is not always rainbows and unicorns. In fact, more often life seems to be more like dragons and thunderbolts. The physical asana practice, which can AND should be hard, challenging and yes, at times even frustrating imitates life. If you always find your asana practice nice and lovely and beautiful, your are doing something wrong. Yes, I said it. Yoga is not lovely all the time. Yoga is hard. It is about transformation and transformation is never easy.
But, if you stick to it, show up for it every day, even if it is just for couple of minutes, you will notice the progress you are making, the transformation that is happening in you. Yes, you will get more skilful in your asana practice, but also in your life. The poses you do on the mat will make you stronger physically, mentally and emotionally. And, you will notice how you are able to show up for life, navigate through this storm we call life with more skill, awareness, kindness and a bigger heart.
So, every time you step onto your yoga mat you are making progress; you showed up for your practice, you showed up for life. Keep on practicing!
-Anu Visuri https://anuvisuriyoga.com/
Photo: Diana Bagnoli http://www.dianabagnoli.com/