Yoga Sutra I.14 is a longtime favourite, describing what kind of effort (abhyasa) is required in our yoga practice, to come closer to the desired results.

Satu dirghakala nairantarya satkara adara asevito drdhabhumih

“It is only if the correct method is followed over a long period of time, uninterruptedly, with enthusiasm and eagerness, that it may succeed”

Ongoing, uninterrupted practice

A brief encounter with Yoga will not create significant physical or emotional changes. To be firmly founded in the practice, it is required we engage in it not only in short bursts, but over a long (dirgha) period of time (kala), and on a continuous and uninterrupted (nairantarya) basis. Rather than ‘short and intense’, we are looking for moderation, intelligent application, and sensitivity, linked with commitment and regularity. This takes care of the days when we feel not so strong or focused, and would rather opt for a gentler approach, whilst at the same time, setting a standard of ongoing discipline.

We need to embark on this journey with positive action, eagerness, and a devout attitude (satkara). It has been scientifically proven that any activity we are pursuing will have better results, the more enjoyment we are experiencing when doing it. This doesn’t mean that we immediately give up on our Yoga when it is becoming more challenging or uncomfortable at times. We sustain our positive attitude and motivation, trusting that with continuous effort and good guidance, we will overcome the presented hurdles. Challenges and even setbacks are bound to happen, and are a part of the journey. These challenges are character forming. We will gain insight into our behavioural patterns when faced with difficulties of any sort, which excellently serves us in our daily life. Besides, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras don’t limit the notion introduced in this particular stanza to asanas (postures) only, but apply equally to any of the 8 limbs of Yoga.

Correct method

It is also important to use the correct method, for which we regularly seek guidance from a trusted teacher; and this cannot be your iPad! :)

At this point, I’d like to clarify that learning Yoga asanas online has little to do with the true teachings and purpose of Yoga. During our practice – if carried out authentically – we draw all of our attention inward, as we aim to ‘direct the focus of the mind exclusively toward one object, and to sustain this direction without distraction’ – Sutra I.2; a definition of ‘Yoga’. If you have to look at a screen again and again when following a yoga sequence online, your focus will become externalized, your energy will move outside of your body, and the wished for ‘sole focus’ is lost. It is possible that injury may occur, too. It is also of great importance to regularly have a teacher observe the proper execution or application of your asana (posture) practice, to avoid forming bad habits. If you live in the outback you might have to compromise a little here, but please ensure you attend a yoga class once in a while. It is also advisable to get regular advice on all other aspects of Yoga you are engaging in i.e. the yamas and niyamas (moral and ethical codes), pranayama (breathing practices), and meditation.

The ‘correct method’ will differ from person to person according to their circumstances in life, and their physical, emotional, and mental states. The Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system forms a wonderful and safe basis with which to work. Everyone practices up to the level of his or her current ability – which can change from day to day! – and certain conditions may need adaptations of the practice to accommodate special requirements. Again, regularly having one’s practice observed, corrected, as well as receiving some skillful guidance, is essential.

The greater the input the better the results

It is worth remembering this sutra when we encounter some resistance to getting up in the morning, or evening to practice – especially when we are currently experiencing challenges – making it to a class after work or when encountering a personal conflict. Just imagine, it is possible to overcome experiences like restlessness, discontent, feeling flat or anxious, and to replace them with a strong, clear, positive state of mind, physical wellness, and developing a calm attitude or disposition, in the face of personal difficulties.

It is said in the Chhandogya Upanishad: “That which is done with proper knowledge, with devotion and in conformity with the scriptures, i.e. done in the proper method, becomes more forceful.”

Regularity and consistency work wonders, they allow joy to arise from deep within, and we yet again feel blessed to have found yoga within this life time, and we take delight in our practice; and of course at the end there is always Shavasana!

OM Shanti,