Wise words from the great Pattabhi Jois – founder of Ashtanga Yoga. I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately and what it really means. Before embarking on my yoga teacher training, I read about yoga, practiced yoga and learnt about yoga and everywhere I looked this quote and the notion that you must nurture a daily practice rang far and wide. So I practiced and over time I have seen the physical benefits immensely but I’ve also seen the mental benefits. I feel less busy in my head when I practice regularly and when I don’t then I get stressed and start to feel less focussed, less confident and less like I want to be here.
Through a consistent practice of the 8 limbs of yoga we can become more mindfull, open and better able to deal with our internal monologue. By being in the present moment of practice we are not allowing our fears to run wild and get in the way of our progression and development we are simple being here now ready to receive what is coming. Pattabhi Jois is not just saying that through asana – the physical practice of yoga, we will get better at the postures, he is saying that through practice we will learn about ourselves, learn to listen and tune in and become more open to all the possibilities that lay ahead.
This is becoming clearer and clearer to me when I look at the last three years where yoga became one of the larger parts of my life. I have become physically and mentally stronger and lighter. I can acknowledge that I am abundant – I have made some amazing friends, I am now part of a great community, I have found some clarity and I feel more at ease with myself. I have learnt to shed some of the stuff that does not serve me and nourish what does. I have also learnt to play more. All this has come from consistent long term practice. Certainly yoga can be beneficial for giving that precious break from your week, but for me regular daily practice and dedication to a more balanced lifestyle has allowed me to fight my demons, find space and clarity and live more openly to new possibilities and opportunities.
A huge learning for me is how this dedication to practice has enabled me to learn about my mindset like no form of psychological therapy ever did. When I started practicing yoga again after a period of immobility I started to get a mental block when it came to practicing Bakasana – Crow pose. I’m sure we all have a posture we have hated at some point because we feel our body has rejected it. For me it was this one. I actively shied away from it in class convinced that I was not strong enough to hold it – I even thought that I would rather run the marathon than do this pose – very crazy! I avoided teaching the posture as I did not want to demonstrate it in front of my students. What’s even crazier is that I would be happy to do inversions – hanging upside down in headstand and handstand was fun but crow was not for me. Last year I came to the realisation that actually instead of focussing on the can’t and won’t mindset I decided to shift to the “practice and all is coming mindset” after all that is what I am telling my students. I set myself the target of mastering it this year and started to practice before Christmas every day in the morning even when I didn’t have time or didn’t want to until I could hold it for five breathes.
I forced myself to get up and practice even when I just wanted to stay in bed and do nothing. I commited to this and let me tell you, Pattabhi Jois was absolutely right – I can now do crow. I have broken down another mental barrier and feel great at the same time. I’ve learnt that I can and should laugh at myself because when you face plant into your mat first thing in the morning laughter is the only real option. It seems like such an obvious thing – do your practice and you will get better but the problem is that too often the mind gets in the way and tells us we’re not good enough or that we may as well quit before we make a fool of ourselves. This little voice is so ugly and horrible that as soon as we allow ourselves to shut it down we can get on with the task in hand. As soon as I decided that the world won’t end if I fall on my face and that play is the way forwards I suddenly felt liberated. So dear aspiring yogis and yoginis I invite you to play with that one posture that you instantly dislike and shy away from. Learn it’s techniques, practice, play , practice some more, laugh and maybe you might just learn to love it.
For any aspiring bakasana lovers out there check out how to do Bakasana here.