As any yogi with a dedicated practice will tell you, yoga is not easy. It is rejuvenating, cleansing, will kick your butt and parts can be relaxing...but it's not easy. Most people find yoga purely for the physical workout. They imagine themselves svelte and lean thanks to influences from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Madonna. If you stick with a dedicated practice with a good nutrition program, a "good" body will be a nice side effect but yoga is so much more than that. It's about finding a connection between your mind, your breath and your body. It's about staying connected and grounded using your breath as the anchor. Without the inquiry the postures just become calisthenics, just another workout to muscle through and the students leave class without any sort of lesson learned. And, as Leann Carey once said in class, "You can't put the relationship to your breath and the postures on like a pair of pants. It is something that is constantly evolving and being nurtured." It is the integration of yoga on as well as off the mat that is the challenge.
During your next asana practice, I challenge you to go beyond the physical demands of the postures themselves. Can you connect to your body, deep within, and develop an internal inquiry so that you come off the mat with something other than open hamstrings? I will give you some things to think about for when the going gets tough:
Welcome difficulty as a blessing. It is in these moments when we feel our weakest that the magic happens. With perseverance and fortitude you will gain strength and learn that you are stronger than you ever believed you are. But, you have to be willing to push to your edge and do something scary.
Be aware of the connection between your energy level, your internal dialogue and your breath. When you start fighting yourself (ego) and me (your yoga guide), your energy level plummets. First, amp up the breath. By "amping the breath" I don't mean breathe shallower and faster, I mean get in there with your Ujjayi breath. Breathe deeper and longer. Imagine the inhalations as drawing strength into your body and the exhalations as releasing tension. The calm in between creates new space.
Notice the relationship between how you react to challenges in your asana practice and how you react to challenges in daily life. Chances are you will find that you respond in similar ways on and off the mat. You may go to your edge with full force. You may push your to your limit only to get scared and back off or you may be afraid to go to your limit at all. Everything we do on the mat is a metaphor for how we handle life and once you realize this relationship, you can use your practice to help you explore and overcome your own personal challenges.
Now, go get on your mat.