Yoga is Non-Competitive & How to Practice it
Happy New Year!
Its been a few weeks since we came back to the studio and its great to see everyone motivated to resume their practice. I have been witnessing amazing effort from our yogis wanting to do their best, go beyond last year’s progress made and delve deeper into their posture practice. On many occasions though, I’ve also seen extra effort and physical strain being applied and so I thought to write a little blog on how to get better, feel amazing and go deeper into postures without losing connection to one of the best qualities about Yoga – Santosha; Contentment = To remain Non-Competitive.
Don’t get me wrong Hatha Yoga is all about using the right level of force to access physical postures that are normally outside our physical body’s general range. However an equal amount of mental and energetic ease is also needed to access deeper layers of yoga poses from wherever your natural range currently is. Unlike normal physical exercise Yoga demands ease in mind, body and breath. This is so that the qualities and benefits we are wanting from the “Yoga pose” is not lost along the way of trying to “achieve” or “do” a yoga pose.
So how do we practice this when the pose is feeling uncomfortable and we know that once we work through this current layer of resistance we will feel much better? Well, in my experience there are 2 things to do immediately:
1) Accept where you are right now – see your struggle in its entirety and instead of pushing through it, learn to breathe into the points of resistance. Relax and make breath the primary focus.
2) Practice all other poses with just as much curiosity and presence.
In sanskrit Santosha is divided into two parts: sam, meaning completely or entirely, and tosha, meaning acceptance, satisfaction, and contentment. Together they create a word that means complete acceptance or contentment. Santosha can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, particularly if your personal dialogue is filled with negative thoughts like “I’m not good enough,” “I’ll never get there”, or “I’m too this, or not enough that…” it’s hard to see the positive in any situation let alone feel even fleeting moments of contentment, when you’re expending a lot of mental energy knocking yourself down for not being where you “think” you should be. So perhaps it’s time to change your story. If your default story is “This is hard, I can’t do this,” then change it to – “This is difficult, let’s see how I do with it today?”
A Yoga pose means (the physical posture) while being held physically, our awareness must spread to witness the Mind focus on breath and the Breath being kept stable and comfortable. This awareness and practice maintains an adequate level of Prana / vital energy flow to hold muscle tension, reduce strain to the body and keeps the mind calm enough to respond to the body’s needs when practising the pose. There is an inherent stretch in each pose and sometimes admittedly many postures can feel like hard work. BUT! practise Santosha – see where you’re at right now, focus on breath, then move along to the next pose! Keep inquiring to see how you are feeling in every pose.
From my personal practice I’ve learned that every yoga pose contains within it a building block for another. Often when I have let go of needing to be better at just one pose I have been able to enjoy the entire practice. This has been my personal approach to many challenging yoga poses where I simply let go of the need to be better at 1 specific pose or aspect of my practice or be somewhere I am not at that point in time and allowed myself to watch myself unfold in the practice as I was.
After all isn’t that why we practice in the first place? To want to keep coming back to the mat, to keep connecting to who we are today and to love our body, mind and spirit just the way they are. The Yoga practice guarantees a sense of renewal, calm energy and a loving connection in body, mind and spirit – provided we practice it without competitiveness and a high quality of presence.