From time to time I believe it’s a good approach to step back. Step back in my own practice, as well as in class with my students. Back to basics. All class focusing on correct alignment. Taking time to look at the details. Slow down. Practice to feel the postures. Also experience the difference when the alignment is not fully correct. Sometimes back to modifications and simple, basic postures. It works like readjusting the body and setting new anchors.
Stepping back is quite challenging for our minds. Particularly for those who claim themselves to be ‘advanced’. Let me give you an example of just one pose: after a very stressful day, go into Vrikshasana, tree pose. The graceful, steady stance of a tree. While maintaining your body balance, feel your roots, feel how they reach out through your mat, the floor, into the ground, guided by your breath. This is a huge opportunity to understand what’s going on with you. Are you able to properly connect? How about your balance that day? Are your thoughts wandering?
It might sound boring, but yogis, practice is not about more more more. It’s not about the ability to do the most complex or advanced poses. Practice is about your connection to yourself. It’s about withdrawing your senses, going internal. A meeting with yourself, a meditative state. Bring your attention to whatever pops up in your mind. What are your thoughts telling you? What do you feel?
The Ashtanga approach
Practicing Ashtanga means a commitment to practice 6 days a week, except moon days. A strong commitment. A useful one, no doubt, as it also strengthens our willpower and discipline. But. Yes, there’s a but. Yoga also teaches me to listen to my body. So what if my body says clearly, no? What if my body threaten to injure itself if I keep on pushing? I keep my commitment to practice 6 days a week, but adjusted the content into ‘yoga’. I’m on my mat each day, Ashtanga on the schedule, but if anything shouts out a clear ‘no’ (laziness doesn’t count!), I allow my body to get into the driver seat: a nice yin practice, a music driven flow, just a bunch of sun salutations, maybe a pranayama session or a meditation. Sometimes my body surprises me and I find myself doing the primary series, although my body told me a different story before 🙂 However, on my mat every day, that’s it.
Stop the competition approach. You are on a journey to yourself! Make your practice mindful and take care. Allow any progress to happen naturally, no matter if on a physical or mental level. Step back from time to time, take your time yogi and enjoy the ride!