Ashtanga is full of ideals. There’s the expectation to show up 6 days a week, to perform a difficult sequence of Asanas in a very specific way… there’s lots of structure within this practice.
Sometimes it happens that the discipline and ideals can squeeze the joy out of your practice; the dogma takes all the juice out of it.
Now, it’s important to understand that if you practice for long enough, you’re going to come up against everything – boredom, aversion, feeling squeezed – this is totally normal in the context of a life-long practice.
You’ll also feel good things of course! 🙂
The role of structure in Ashtanga Yoga is to evoke and reveal our attachments and aversions. If our resistance to structure stops us from practicing, then we’ve misapplied the technique.
So we need to learn how to hold these ideals lightly.
We have to be able to try to do our practice inside of the structure that were given without squeezing ourselves or feeling bad about those times we don’t meet the requirement of the vinyasa.
The structure isn’t there to make us feel bad; it’s there to hold us so we can see everything that’s going on. So if we do feel bad on a particular day- if we can’t make the 6-days-a-week ideal, or we don’t jump into kurmasa – whatever it is – the structure is there to help centre us as we explore and process our feelings. This is how we get to know our patterns, and also how we can ultimately free ourselves from reflex and reactivity.
So here’s what I want you to do:
When you don’t meet the ideal, or when you feel like you’re disappointing your teacher, or whatever is going on – take a second. Really feel that emotion. But be aware that it’s YOU that’s feeling it.
Be aware that Ashtanga, the sequence, doesn’t really care if you jump into kurmasana or not. The vinyasa doesn’t have an opinion about you being a “good” or “bad” yogi.
And chances are, your teacher doesn’t either.
Your teacher wants you to benefit from your practice. They want you to get the most out of it, and they don’t want you to feel bad about the time you spend on the mat.
So take a moment the next time you’re not enjoying your practice. See if you can try to hold the structure a little more gently, and let a little more lightness in.
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