If you are reading the post, I assume that you must be practicing Ashtanga Yoga. And if you do so, then probably like many of us, you have already asked yourself at least once:
‘Will it ever get any easier…?’
So my answer is - quite honestly, it never gets EASY. Like really easy. But, since I have been reflecting for a while now, on how has my daily practice changed over the years, I though I would share the few most significant aspects of this change, and the practice, which eventually led me to the sense of lightness and ease on and off the mat.
Having begun with daily (and I mean by that a 6 times a week, with respect to the moon days and ladies’ holiday) practice in 2014, after having practiced less regularly for a few years prior to that, I went through many ups and downs on the mat, and most of it being downs.
During most of the time, there were days when my body felt stiff, and then, there were days when my body felt even stiffer. I also struggled with few injuries, with getting up so early, and even underwent a knee surgery. But despite all these difficulties, I never really took a day off from the Sadhana. The same, as you wound’t think of taking a ‘day-off’ from being a good person, or from brushing your teeth - to name a few.
But along with the nourishing of this determination to never give up, I have also - due to all the discomforts of the practice - developed a sort of love-hate relationship with ashtanga Sadhana. You may want to ask right here ‘So what kept you going!?!’. Good question. Most probably I kept practicing, because from the nature I’m not a quitter. Once I decide to do something, I usually do not give up easily. But also because I knew that we most often don’t like things, that are good for us; the same as we crave for things, which not necessarily are.
Seeing the higher goal (Devotion)
And as I am thinking more profoundly about this inner strength which never allowed me to skip or quit the practice, I am slowly realising, that there might have been an aspect of the devotion too.
Bhakti, as they call it in India, is the inner strength and faith that there is something more powerful than us. It is the strength to go though the life unbroken, and to find joy in things that may not always be easy at first.
I have never aimed to practice bhakti or become a devotee of anyone or anything. I am in fact quite far from being a blind follower, as you may know. It was rather, as if there was this inner desire in me, to believe that there is something more powerful than myself, a creating Force or Wisdom, that would eventually help me become a better and a happier version of myself.
Because as you may already know - despite we often call it different names - what we are all looking for in life is the sense of Happiness. Some people may see it through the family life, fulfilling their Dharma as parents, some others through the charity work and selfless actions. Many people, to no avail, look for the happiness in the path of work and financial success.
For me, the happiness has been always obviously rooted in the faith and sense of the self-realisation through the understanding of the Universal Truth. And through the asking myself the unanswered question ‘Who I really am…’
Possibly, that is why the six day a week ashtanga practice really spoke to me. Though despite it was sometimes painful and most of the time uncomfortable - thatnks to it’s repetitiveness - it was giving me a sense of journey towards the self understanding and of the nurturing the spiritual truth.
That is how my practice looked for a couple of years. And then - I became pregnant. During that time something shifted in me, because being pregnant makes you realise that pregnancy is hard enough and that you “don’t have to” do anything any more. Pregnancy can be a good excuse, if you will.
But for me - pregnancy made me understand, that I may “lose” this ability to practice (aka seek my Truth), because of the upcoming family life. And so I shifted my focus from still quite physical and achievement oriented, into the connection with the internal sensations and experiences.
After all, it didn’t really matter to me at that time, if i was doing sun salutations or simple cat and cow movements. But as long as I was on the mat and I kept breathing - it meant I was on the good side. And I loved it.
Happy to receive my “normal” body back in the early postpartum, I resumed the practice about two weeks after birth, whatever the practice meant for me. And I continued practicing this way, without a clear definition what the practice was, for the past two years. No matter if I had 2 hours or 25 minutes. I was there and i was doing my best, meeting my body where it was.
And it has been only a few weeks ago when I realised (having again the privilege of getting on the mat for the 2-3hrs long routine every day) that the practice became magically easy and light. That my body begun accessing the places, that were not accessible ever before. I became much stronger than ever and my body lost its inherent sense of stiffness and heaviness.
Every day, I make an effort to keep my asana practice as pure and as simple as it can possibly be. Without any additional warm ups or stretches. Whatever my body needs - I’m starting to find it in the particular posture that I am doing in the very moment. Be it Surya Namaskara or one of the standing postures. All you need is exactly there, where you are - if you only dare to look carefully enough.
That being said, I’m not holding on any physical progress, because I know that this may change too. Yet, I do occasionally happen to experience the sensations of inner lightness and inner bliss, which I haven’t experienced too much of, during the last 10-15 years. And it makes me happy.
It is, as if the breath was filling up my veins and carrying my body in the gesture of gratitude for the past decade of hard work.
And so I can tell you honestly - Discipline, Devotion and Surrender are worth giving a try. And if similarly to me, all you look for in this life is finding your Own Truth, and as a consequence your Ultimate Happiness - this daily practice may get you a step closer to your goal.