I’ve come a long way in my yoga practice in the last few weeks. If you practice Bikram Yoga with me, you must wonder what I’m on about. And you’re right. There’s been no evident external progress.
I’m still working on keeping my standing knee locked in the Standing Head to Knee Pose. It’s hard enough for me to try contracting the quadriceps muscles in the front side of the leg. Only on a very rare occasion do I manage to kick my other leg out. I wish I could demonstrate a beautiful Camel Pose, but no. I’m still working on deepening the backbend, without grabbing for my heels. Oh and the Floor Bow Pose. You’ll have to look very closely to notice my thighs lifting off the floor. The movement is so subtle. I do know that only the hips and pelvis should remain on the mat, everything else forming an exquisite tear shape. Maybe some day.
Anyways. I’m one of those people who tries hard. I give it all I’ve got. In pretty much anything. In life. I push through. I really don’t need anybody telling me that I should go all out and do my best. Most often I’m already knocking myself out 150%. The problem in yoga for a naturally inflexible person like me is that forcing it only leads to frustration. Huffing and puffing. Irritation. Failure.
The teachers at my yoga studio often say things like: “There’s no struggle”. “Form over depth.” “If you meet any resistance, take a step back. That’s your posture for today. And just breathe.” These sure are useful reminders throughout the class for me. I often get so excited if I even seem to reach a little deeper than yesterday that I quickly forget to breathe. Alltogether. I hold my breath and shove my muscles further. More. More. More. Sweat dripping off my face. I’m such a bulldozer. None of that yoga enlightment here.
But back to my inital point on progress. My latest yoga breakthrough is entirely internal. It’s the realisation that I do not need to try so hard. And yes, that’s demanding for an achiever like me. I want to do instead of be. Isn’t the opposite of achievement failing and giving up? My new mantra, however, is that I set an intention for every class to focus on breath and stillness. As simple as that. It does require patience, but it works. I’m surprised. Without the expectation of being able to do a posture in a certain way, I am released from my constant internal judgement. It’s easier to let the posture go. And just breathe. Like one of my new yoga teachers says: “It’s just body parts”.