Maybe you are just a yoga beginner and you ask yourself the question
What will a regular yoga practice do to me?
Let me tell you that I was asking the same question a few years ago. There are many articles and plenty of information about the benefits of yoga. When you scroll down on Instagram, you will see yoga poses that you didn't even know existed or even were possible. You can also read about strict disciplines to be followed in books about traditional yoga. All this information can be confusing, right?
No one knows what exactly will happen to you when you begin yoga, but every yoga practitioner will tell you that there will be positive changes
In this article I won't give you alignment tips or be telling you to practice yoga 5 days a week. I would like this to be a reflection of mine to serve as a motivation for you to find a yoga practice that you will love and that will become sustainable for you.
Article written by Czech Yoga teacher Sharka
Set your goals, but change them every day
Practice and all is coming, right? I get that you don´t want to believe this quote when you still find it hard to hold 5 breaths in downward dog. I didn´t want to believe it either. We tend to have prejudice towards our body and we tend to assume, which yoga poses we will be good at and which will never work out.
A regular yoga practice change the way we see our body day by day
I could always fold deep, touching the ground was never a problem for me, so I assumed that backbends will be hard for me. At the beginning of my regular yoga practice this mindset actually made me avoid practicing backbends for a good year. I haven´t improved until I started including them to my regular yoga practice. Nowadays, I can´t tell anymore if I prefer folds or bends. Moving my spine in all directions is something that became so natural and my body misses the range of movement, if it happens that I have to skip my yoga asana practice for a few days.
But there is something even more important to that what I learnt along the way. Practicing backbends was just one part of the backbend progress! The other part was to keep on practicing folds and making sure to twist, release tensions, skipping certain asanas when they didn´t feel good on a particular day and relax the muscles every day. The recipe to improve one asana doesn´t lead through a concentrated focus on it. Do you want to be able to do a wheel pose? Sure, do your cobras, locusts and camels, but always include folds and twists too.
The body benefits from variety of movement the most.
There are yoga asanas and movements I assumed I would never ever reach and they came to me just after few months. On the other hand, there are yoga poses that I expected to arrive due to my focus on them and I still can´t perform them until today.
Never, not even as a young and flexible girl, I was able to drop back into wheel pose. Some recent tries at the wall made me think that I have years to get there. Then one day, while I was performing a standing backbend, I suddenly thought the mat isn´t far away and I dropped back with ease.
And then I still miss a tiny piece of space to bind into lotus when I´m upside down or to put my leg behind my head. The space felt tiny when I first tried and it remained more or less the same even after 4 years of practice. It could frustrate me, but I can also simply believe that one day something will finally click and my body will figure out it's own way.
Adjusting the goals to who we become along the journey is the way to go. Yoga is unique in always giving you a new goal after you have reached one
The good & the bad side
It wasn´t until I discovered the existence of the spiral myofascial line ("myofascial lines" are lines of connective tissue that run through out the body. These lines help the body to move as a unit) to understand my body's dis-balances. And it wasn´t until I started to fully believe in the intelligence of my body and until I gave up the concentrated focus on „improving my bad side“ that my posture started to improve rapidly and the differences of the sides started to vanish. There wasn´t a better decision than to let go.
Flowing, surrendering and feeling good in the movement is thousand times more effective than biting your lips in prolonging those holds on the bad side
I wouldn´t have realized this without walking the path of getting the theoretical knowledge and going through various stages how I felt about my body. Everyone will tell you to let go and it´s completely normal that you won´t be able to do so at the beginning. Each of us must find our own way and while some of us will find comfort in understanding own body through anatomical books, others may become regular runners or they may breathe and meditate their way into understanding themselves.
You will probably find that the duality of thinking will influence your approach to yoga too. You will probably be inclined to see yourself as either flexible or strong (or in the worse case you will think about your body as stiff and weak), but all of it is just a current state of mind! There more experienced you become, the less duality in thinking there will be.
Connection between the mental and the physical
Let me ask you this question:
What do you imagine when someone tells you yoga is not just a physical activity?
I knew there was the breathing, the relaxation and meditation. Sitting with your conscious breath for five minutes is more difficult than performing yoga asanas. It is a different kind of difficult. In our life we tend to compete and believe that the path to our goals leads through our hard work.
In yoga, sometimes the harder you try the farther the goal seems
According to traditional understanding of yoga there are 8 limbs defined. You can view them as stages or parts of the whole system of yoga. The journey to pranayama (conscious breathing) leads through asana (physical yoga poses). There is pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) and dharana (concentration) before one reaches the stage of dhyana (meditation).
Suggested article: 8 limbs of yoga
If you are new to yoga practice, yoga asanas are probably what you imagine yoga is all about. In traditional understanding of yoga, there actually come yamas (social ethics or loosely translated as fixing your relationships with others) and niyamas (personal discipline or in other words fixing your relationship with yourself) before one is ready to start practicing yoga poses. And at the very top there is samadhi (enlightenment)- the mysterious state of mind when one becomes unattached to the occurrences of the world.
I have listed the limbs of yoga in the way I see it. I don´t think there is a right or wrong way where to start. You will meet people who will call themselves yogis and who will never reach any other stage than a beautiful and flexible body. On the other hand, you will meet beautiful souls who meditate daily and who are very kind to others and they will call themselves not yogic enough.
What I want to say here is – it really doesn´t matter where you start your yogic journey. Just start and stay open! I strongly believe that soon all later aspects of yoga will find their way to your life.
So what is yoga then?
I would say there are as many definitions of yoga as there are yoga practitioners in this world. And probably even more! You will find that your own definition of yoga will change with every practice, with every situation you go through, and with every breath you take...
So my final advise to you would be - don´t be focused on someone else's yoga, find yours!