You are not one big backbend away from enlightenment. I hate to break it to you, but it is really the unglamorous work of getting up a bit earlier to do a daily practice, most of which probably isn’t instagram-worthy, that will keep you sane and healthy. It’s the accumulation of consistent practice over months and years that puts you on a path towards joy and freedom and not just one rockin’ class with a Coldplay soundtrack. If the experience of subtle energetics is part of your practice, then of course big poses have the possibility to connect you to transcendental states. But they can equally throw you off balance and out of the continual practice of balancing the energies that compose your physical, emotional, and spiritual states.
You have to do the work and build the discipline on a daily basis. Sure, practice can sometimes feel really really good and worth it. Sometimes it only feels good afterwards. But the good news is that with time and consistency your body changes, your brain changes, your mind and your experience of life changes.
One of my homework assignments for the advanced teacher training I’m on was to create a practice inspired by a sutra or two from the yoga sutras of Patanjali.
Immediately I gravitated towards the following:
1.14: Practice is the repeated effort to follow the disciplines which give permanent control to the thoughtwaves of the mind
1.15: Practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been cultivated for a long time, uninterruptedly, with earnest devotion
I couldn’t find anything more inspiring for me than acknowledgment that it is practice and discipline that keeps you on the path. Because it is hard to keep it going. I know that the minute I get a bit lazy about the consistency and duration of my practices, I can go down a slippery slope of letting my stress levels creep up and becoming a pretty unhappy and moody person, not to mention that I almost always start to get sick.
This doesn’t mean that I have to practice intensely every single day. It is pretty much the simplest stuff done consistently that makes a difference. For me that means pretty moderately paced sun salutations and a bit of regional stretching and strengthening depending on how I’m feeling, what I’ve done earlier and what I’m going to do later. Layered on top of that a few practices a week leading up to some challenge poses (that change every few months or so) to keep me interested and focused. It does help your daily discipline to have some targets. Currently I’m working on balancing my handstand in the center of the room and the flexibility around my left hip which hasn’t quite caught up to the right. If next week I was doing handstand while in lotus with the left leg in first would I be a happier person? Probably not. I’d have to find a new challenge to keep myself engaged with my practice.
Sometimes practice is heaven. Sometimes it’s just part of the daily slog of living. It is constantly changing as I change. It meets the demands of my life and teaches me to live more freely and joyfully. I know that it is essential for me to feel my best. And by the way, I need to go practice now.
Check out more of what I have to say about this at one of my workshops or courses.