Practice: a repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
In one of my classes a few weeks ago, I asked if any of the students had practiced yoga before. One of the responses was “I’ve taken a class or two but I’m horrible at it.”
My reply? There is no such thing as being “horrible” at yoga.
When people see yoga represented in mainstream media, they think of thin bodies in intimidating positions and how flexible they aren’t in comparison. Well, as hard as it may be to believe, those people in the pictures probably couldn’t walk into a class and pull off Scorpion or Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel) from day one. Instructors, too, were students at one point. We still are and yoga says that we always will be. We had to learn to square our hips and roll our shoulders away from our ears just like everyone else. And when we attempt more complicated variations, we will have to learn the alignment and posture cues in order to express those poses better.
Because of the competitive nature of our culture, we get frustrated with ourselves in yoga class when our bodies don’t do what we want them to. We want them to keep up with the class so that when they hold Boat Pose for the third round, so do we. No sweat. But when we do that, we miss out on what yoga is about. Don’t make your practice, the hour or two that you set aside to reconnect with yourself, about someone else. Keep the focus inward. If you like the idea of competition, compete with yourself. Challenge yourself to go deeper and try new things.
During training, everyone was learning to fully express and instruct poses that they were comfortable with doing. But when it came time to practice headstand, some people were trying it for the first time. Many people would go through the prep, take a few hops to attempt headstand, sit back into Child’s Pose and then watch the other trainees find the pose successfully.
“There’s no Watch-asana” one of our teachers said, telling the onlookers to move closer to the wall and keep moving.
And it’s true. You don’t get better by sitting out and telling yourself that you’re “not ready yet.” If you spend all of your time waiting for the perfect time and the perfect set of circumstances, you may never get to where you want to be. You don’t get better by watching others do better. It won’t rub off on you. Come out of the pose and take a break, sure. But when you catch your breath, take another round of trying. Trying is practice, even if both of your feet stay on the ground. With yoga, preparation can be just as important as the execution of the pose itself.
Think about it with cooking. If you rush, don’t take care or take pride in what you’re doing, you get a poor outcome, like fast food. When you focus, become familiar with the kitchen and the ingredients, the quality of the outcome is better. More attention to honing your job skills, leads to a better job, a dream job even. Yoga is an investment of time and effort that your body will begin to thank you for after just your very first class.
“If you go on doing what you have always done, you will go on getting what you have always gotten.”
So, if you are taking a class once a week or once in a while and are dissatisfied with your results, take more classes. Play with a pose when a teacher introduces a new variation. Focus on your body alone. The best part of yoga is that it is open to growth at every level. There is no peak where you can say that you know everything there is to know; your skill and awareness is always gradually expanding.
Remember that the definition of practice means to achieve mastery and to maintain it. “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” So keep going.
Be proud of where you are and where you’re going. You can only get better.
Rekara Gage is a Professional Writing student and a Registered Yoga Instructor. Through both yoga and writing, she loves exploring new avenues and facing challenges that allow her to push boundaries and think creatively. Passionate about the work she does, on and off the mat, she is always open to connecting with people, eager to continue learning and growing. With a voice and style of her own, she hopes that yoga helps to unlock her potential as she hones her literary skills and shares her experiences with others.