It’s happened more than once that a student seems upset or offended by the idea that he or she is somehow dependent on yoga practice. It’s pretty common that we begin to feel improvements in our lives within a short time of starting and maintaining practice. These improvements are rarely limited to flexibility and strength. Rather, the benefits are also felt in areas like improved sleep or digestion, a greater sense of well-being or stronger coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses of life off the mat. Let’s face it, the Ashtanga Yoga method works.
For some, however, the recognition that these improvements are directly linked to Ashtanga Yoga practice causes a total freak out and often immediate quitting. Why would one become uncomfortable or downright rebellious about needing to practice in order to have these improvements persist? My experience was that taking practice made my life better. I also had experiences that showed me what my life would be like if I let my dedication to practice wane. I’ve been lazy and slept in; I’ve skipped practice so Rachelle and I could go have brunch. I’ll share a secret with you. Brunch was tasty and the extra hour lounging in bed was relaxing, but neither gave me what I needed to deal with this crazy world of ours. It was a simple conclusion from my direct experience that not practicing had consequences and practicing had benefits. Over time, the experience of the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga made waking up early and the other “sacrifices” easy (in quotes because they don’t appear that way anymore).
We don’t feel upset or dependent on brushing our teeth in order to have good oral hygiene. We don’t get upset because a lack of water will leave us dehydrated. We understand the connection between our daily practices and the benefits accrued from them. Dependent on yoga practice? Maybe, but no more than on eating, drinking or putting on sunscreen before heading to the beach.
My attitude is that we are all going to be “dependent” on something. Why not develop good habits that produce tremendous benefits rather than bad habits that can be detrimental or dangerous over time?
Guruji said “do your practice and all is coming.” Rejoice when you make the connection that your life is improved as a result. This recognition makes it easier to practice and creates great willpower that will influence other areas of our lives that are important.
Paul Gold is an Ashtanga practitioner and teacher. He co-owns and co-directs Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Toronto with his wife, Rachelle. He made his first trip to Mysore in 2001 to study with Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He and his wife return annually to continue their studies with R Sharath Jois. He is KPJAYI Level 2 Authorized.