So I've just finished my home Yoga practice for the day which consisted of forward bends (really ace ones), inversions, forward bends, inversions and then I finished with the splits and a couple of restorative forward bends.
What? I did the same practice yesterday? No no no. I mean, sure there were some forward bends, but they were standing ones yesterday. It's because of my insanely flexible hamstrings. I can do all the advanced stuff. They feel good. Okay okay ... it's because I'm good at them and it feeds my ego to only do the things I'm good at!!!
Does this sound familiar?
I actually force myself to go to classes because I know that if I only did my personal home practice, I would just be doing all the things I'm good at and leaving out twists and backbends.
I've now realised this way of practicing has actually hindered my Yoga practice. I'm certainly not stilling the mind. Yoga is about taming the ego and not feeding it right? Then there's the physical downsides, I have tight shoulders and no thoracic awareness, tight hip flexors, quads and an anterior pelvic tilt, so constantly doing poses that only open the back of my body are just making my 'pose obstacles' even larger and my anterior tilt more exaggerated!
So why is this self satisfaction so important? I think we've latched on to the idea that Yoga practice is like gymnastics, sport, dance, or athletics. All of these activities do require practice and discipline, but also require a certain level of skill in order for us to feel we're 'good enough'. Many of us resort to the fact that we 'suck' at it and move on. Yoga is different. It's not something anyone will ever suck at! Ever! Recognising our physical obstacles is just another part of Yoga.
There should be no self criticism or praise whilst practicing asana. I've heard a senior Yoga teacher once say that his daily asana practice was part of his morning routine, much like brushing his teeth. He just does it, then he goes about with the rest of his day.
How do we learn this self discipline? If we're serious about taking our Yoga practice to a deeper level, we can start by studying and practicing the Yoga Sutras. We can apply the Yoga sutras not only to our daily asana practice but to the way we think, feel and act.
Svadyaya is a sanskrit term for 'one's own lesson'. It's one of the Niyamas in Patanjali's '8 limbs of Yoga' (Niyama being the 2nd Limb and meaning 'observances') and simply means to polish the mirror and take a look at yourself.
Who do you see?
I see someone who's about to dedicate a personal practice to backbends and twists :)
The Yoga Social Team