What makes someone a good yoga practitioner?
Is it someone strong and flexible with a fluid, beautiful practice?
If so, does that make someone whose form is tight and stiff, who’s struggling with their practice, not good at yoga?
When Ashtanga yoga is practiced in the Mysore style, students of all levels of ability practice alongside each other. And even though they share the same sequence of postures, the differences in their physical practices are apparent.
For some, bending the body comes easily; for others, age, injuries, body proportion and past history make things more difficult. Every student will encounter challenges along the way; it is meeting these challenges that makes the practice rewarding.
Students have a natural tendency to glance around the room and compare themselves to others, based on how far in the sequence they have progressed or how they perform the asanas, in order to determine how “advanced” they are.
As a teacher, I often tell my students that the best students are those who turn up everyday or as often as they can. I believe that yoga is in the doing: making the wholehearted effort to do your best in that moment, day after day, regardless of whether your postures look “beautiful.”
It is what is happening on the inside that counts.
So, taking this into consideration, to be a good yoga student you need to do more than bring your body to the mat each day. Your mind needs to come too, and focus on three points of concentration—breath, posture and drishti. Of course, some days we may be more focused or distracted than others, but it is the process of noticing these differences that is the path of yoga.
Does it end there? Is it enough to bring the body and mind to the mat each day?
Well, no. My teacher Sharath Jois regularly repeats the teaching of his grandfather, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, that asana is the foundation of our yoga practice. It is both the beginning of the journey and the journey itself. It is the foundation that gives us the steadiness needed to evolve, grow and develop wisdom for living.
Ultimately, Sharath says, yoga is for self-transformation. Which makes the question of whether you or someone else is “good” at yoga irrelevant.
Perhaps a better question is: Has yoga made you better at living life?
And that is something only you can answer.
Nea Ferrier is a practitioner and authorised teacher of Ashtanga Yoga. After quite a few years of rolling out her mat each day in different parts of Asia, she is now rolling it out each day in Dubai. She teaches the Mysore program at the Yoga Room Dubai and is honored to have the chance to share the practice she loves with people from around the world.
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Ed: Dejah Beauchamp & Brianna Bemel
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