Our natural reaction to a situation we don’t like is to move away from it as quickly as possible, or if we can, to avoid it altogether.

In Yoga we are often instructed to assume – initially – uncomfortable positions. Then you might ask yourself, ‘surely yoga’s not meant to be this challenging?!’

What the Yoga Sutras say about this

One of the afflictions of the mind as presented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is ‘Dvesha’ – the mind’s natural tendency to avoid the repetition of any negative experience we have had in the past. Although this can be very valuable – you might have once burnt yourself on a hot-plate, and hopefully have learned to not repeat this experience again! – but in other instances, maybe when your partner left you, you would want to avoid the mindset of ‘… I never want to love this much ever again’.

How can practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa help?

Asana (posture) practices are very educational in this respect, especially in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and its set sequence of postures: every single time we practice, as much as there will be some postures to be enjoyed, we will encounter a challenging one. At first Yoga gets us hooked with its uplifting experiences and given emotional highs, and it is so much fun; then at the same time we also have to face some discomfort; physically, emotionally or mentally (or all three at once), and this is what propels us to grow and evolve. The practice is very clearly set out: cultivate some discipline and persistence, and in return you gain a multitude of benefits. There is a healthy mixture of joy and challenge, which contribute to us commiting to the practice of yoga.

Some Effort is required

Unfortunately in recent years with the commercialisation of Yoga, more and more emphasis has been placed on attracting and then pleasing the yoga student to gain their ‘custom or patronage’. Like this, the true teachings of this most valuable discipline, including the nature of the teacher-student-relationship, can easily be corrupted, and diminished, if not lost. As a result of creating an image of Yoga always being comfortable and non-challenging, the insinuation is it is a quick fix for any kind of health or emotional issue, with not much effort needed. As a result, yoga students won’t always be corrected in postures when necessary. Or they are allowed to practice postures which may harm them; the novice teacher fearing they may move to another yoga studio if the student is prevented (correctly) from assuming too many new or more advanced postures. This is clearly giving the yoga student a wrong understanding of what this discipline is all about.

Authenticity and Teacher-Student-Relationship

It is of great importance that authenticity and the true purpose of a teacher-student-relationship, always remains at the forefront for the students’ own benefit and greater good. The teacher is meant to be a trusted guide for the student. This requires the teacher to be well trained and truly grounded in the practice of Yoga on all levels i.e. postures, pranayama – breathing exercises – and meditation. They also need to have a broader understanding of Yoga physiology and philosophy, and of course anatomy. This background allows the teacher to take a Yoga student to the next level, and direct them in their physical and mental journey, also at times when the journey becomes a bit rocky. This might sometimes involve some confronting and uncomfortable teachings, and it is only when a solid and mutually trusting relationship between teacher and student has been established, that this process has a chance to succeed.

The Joys and Challenges of the Practice

Yes, the practice is not always comfortable; it can be frustrating, frightening, enraging, discouraging, emotionally painful; also the most uplifting, satisfying, joy-inspiring, fulfilling, blissful fun, and the most rewarding thing you have ever participated in – ‘You can’t know how good you can feel until you feel it’.

Yoga is a process of – amongst many other things – learning how to face a challenge, stick with the task at hand, persevere in your deep inquiry, and to really ‘look inside’; getting to know the challenge in great detail, to be honest and own up to your limitations, but equally acknowledge your potential and put the required effort into working towards achieving it. You will be surprised how much you can achieve through regular practice!

Stay, to Move Forward

So next time you don’t want to remain in a posture for much longer and feel like you have to get out of it NOW, try what one of our teachers suggests: – ‘stay there for just another five breaths’. Hold still for a moment, relax into your breath, breathe out any discomfort or tension, breath into the area concerned, with the intent to truly look, feel, and find out what exactly it is that prevents you from staying there a little longer. Get to know closely, any sensation you might experience, know its exact location, the nature of the feeling, and what it needs for you to be able to stay in the posture for a few breaths more, which will enable you to eventually ‘let go’. You will move into an amazingly calm and focused state.

One of your best teachers will always be your own inquiry, and the resulting physical and emotional experience of true healing.

Don’t lose your focus, rather experience what needs to be experienced with the trust that eventually you will be able to let go, change, and mature into a much better place. Once you have cultivated this kind of practice, you will so love your new self!

OM Shanti,

Angelika

P.s I hope this reflection helped you to understand why we encourage everyone to practice at least three times a week for true transformation to happen. This is what all of our teachers, including myself, do (we actually practice six times a week). I hope you will feel inspired to join us in this endeavour. Become the best version of yourself J

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