Are you Practicing Or Performing yoga?
|Scorpion pose / Vrschikasana|
Have you ever thought about how the advanced yogis can do a scorpion pose so effortlessly? Think back, maybe you dismissed it thinking “Ah, that’ll never be me” and forgot about it?
Okay how about something in the media? Have you thought about how Oprah became one of the most influential women in the world? What about the players in your favorite sport team? How do they keep winning all those games? Last one! That role model at your workplace or your circle of friends? Do you wonder how they manage to show up 110% every single day?
Would you believe me if I said: Because these people are special, born with super-powers, with special privileges over everyone else? Or would you believe me a little more if I told you that it took Oprah many failed attempts to find her personal best, and that every one that shows up extraordinarily today has had to put in their own personal practice to be the person they are with such ease. I have a suspicion you’d believe me if I confirmed that the extraordinary level of presence does not happen overnight, nor is it accidental.
You might say “Of course Supriya, we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day” and “That’s why I don’t really think about these people too much because I don’t have that much time to practice like them”.
There is another insight to the act of practice and I recently found a great example through an interview I watched on classical Indian music. Arijit Singh (one of my fave) an acclaimed indian singer said that he would never perform classical songs, because it is not for performance to an audience. His guru would never allow him to perform while he was still in training because he went on to share that what is for the audience will always be judged and during a practice we are not doing it for anyone else but just ourselves. Lastly, he said what he sings to practice (classical music) is to understand music, and it is not something the audience has the right to hear.
Proof of extraordinary performance lies in the quality of practice.
We were assigned to instruct Parramatta Eels for a whole year. Before starting we expected to be working with athletes that were ready to tackle yoga poses like they tackle their big games. Much to our surprise, most of them had long term injuries and they needed to be taught yoga poses that helped them manage and improve their healing process. What we noted was that these guys would literally spend 90% of their time practicing, starting from the break of dawn, working with many specilists developing as athletes, and only 10% of their time was spent in games. You all know the rest (I don’t) but I’m sure they’re a very successful team people can count on.
How can we learn from this?
The awesome yoga videos on Youtube or your yoga instructors are not in practice mode when they are showing you the form. What you don’t realise is that there is a personal practice behind the finished product. This is the intelligent way to do things, in any role. It helps prevent injuries and tiring trying to be the teacher and everything else in life. Right?
Then why is it that we forget that our regular practice time is NOT a demonstration?
Yoga is not a supplement for anything else. It is a self-awareness program. Your time for practice is to learn about yourself, how you can better understand your own emotions, energy, body and mind. The more time you spend in practice you get better at listening to yourself and become a better partner to yourself.
We often come to the mat with baggage from our day and automatically start pushing the body in and out of yoga poses, the same way we got to class, without even batting an eyelid. Don’t get me wrong yoga poses, the form is an important part of the practice too. However you are not a machine, and you are not performing for a show. Your time on the mat, is that sacred time, to check in, re-fill and return to balance.
On the mat, let your guard down, especially with yourself. Hot Tip: when you are in practice mode, you are not in a place where there is a haste of getting out of the pose. Unless you’re in the wrong place. You can change your pose, and should be able to hold steadily for as long as instructed, calmly breathing. So how you set up your mentality matters since auto-piloting is very close to performing.
A yoga practice – be it for a beginner, intermediate or advanced practitioner will always allow room for self-reflection, comfortable breathing and stability before any further progressions are taken from a very safe place of connection to the body.
Connection is everything. Yoga is not a race toward another fancy yoga pose (that comes and goes). But its developing a readiness, a quiet confidence and trust in one self to hear instructions correctly to keep moving forward, steadily. Then you can bet you will sustain your growth and development in whatever you put your mind to. You won’t just be a one hit wonder 🙂
You might be seeking different information on how else yoga can transform your life, your practice and the way you see this world. I’m sharing my 13 years of experience in a yoga teacher training program starting this September. If you’ve been practicing yoga under a teacher for a couple of years and feel these queries within, you can head over to THIS SITE to see what the course entails and Apply ONLINE. Applications close 10 September 2019 and the next one will commence in 2020.
Please share your comments below and share if this article was useful to you. Has it helped you understand yoga or your practice? Did you have any Aha’s reading it? I would love to know.
Thank you for allowing me to share my insights with you.
Supriya Roy (Ayurveda Practitioner & Yoga Teacher Trainer)