WHO IS A DEDICATED YOGA PRACTITIONER?

I have recently caught myself day dreaming about my yoga school days and re-living the whole experience in my head. I think this is happening because of a couple of reasons.
1. I have not practiced with my main teacher for over 1.5 years now.
2. My yoga school days are extra special in my heart. It is a place where I find myself being truly content and happy.
3. I am a yoga geek.
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My yoga school is in Mysore, South India. A couple of hours from my home in Bangalore. I discovered my school by complete accident. I guess it was my destiny. When I moved to Seattle, I made a promise to myself that I would return every year to practice yoga in India with my teachers. So far, for 2 years in a row, I have kept that promise though it does get harder each year. But for someone like me, not going back to school is NOT an option. I am returning in December and I am thrilled beyond what I can describe in words. More on this journey some other day.

I was reminded about this recently when I noticed that class attendance drops here in summer. I had read about this online & heard about this from other yoga teachers. This got me thinking about a couple of things – the yoga habit and what makes a sincere yoga practitioners and the obstacles to one’s practice.

Is it easy for all people to commit to something? The obvious answer being “no”. It is easier to run away from things than to stick to something against all odds. Some people do this with ease and style while others struggle to keep up from week to week. I used to struggle to go to the gym many years ago. And ended up only wasting time and money and stressing about it. There is only one secret to success in all of this. Finding the ONE thing that you enjoy and then sticking to it will be easy as long as you enjoy it!

Many times I get asked by prospective students how long do they need to come to class? When can they learn it all? When can they go to the next level? When will they be able to practice at home by myself? I try to tell them as gently as I can that it’s a lifelong practice. There is no shortcut. And a month or two mean nothing in the journey of yoga. Initially asana practice can be hard. The body is not used to turning and twisting like a pretzel and neither are we strong enough from day 1. But we get there soon enough. The key is to be consistent. To return to your class or practice day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

I see all sorts of yoga practitioners. Super sincere ones who literally travel across the globe to study yoga regularly. Semi sincere ones who regularly enough to maintain good physical health and others who come rarely if at all and do yoga now and then because they know it’s good for them or everyone else is doing it. This makes me wonder what causes fluctuation. Is it the student’s lifestyle, the class, the teacher, the schedule, the weather (in the NW), financial reasons or just laziness? But I think it there is a point where one realizes the difference between needing yoga and wanting yoga. The ones who want it will not come every day and won’t think about it often. The ones who need it will have it as a part of their lives no matter what, wherever they go – their yoga goes with them. You cannot separate them and their yoga practice. And that’s when the yoga habit as I call it kicks in.

Not everyone starts yoga practice knowing that they will stick to it forever. The ones who do, make a transition from wanting yoga to needing it. This transition is not very hard. One just needs to remove preconceptions from their head. Actually yoga takes place more in the mind than the body. I have already mentioned some of the obstacles to yoga practice earlier. But it is beautifully stated in the Yoga sutras of Patanjali in Chapter 1 Verse 30

Vyadhi-Styana-Samsaya-Pramada-Alasya-Avirati-Bhrantidarsana-Alabdhabhumikatva-Anavasthitatvani-Cittaviksepah-Te-Antarayah

There are a number of predictable obstacles that arise on the journey of yoga. They are Illness, dullness, doubt, negligence, laziness, cravings, misperception, failure, instability.

This was found in the Patanjali’s sutras (considered as one of the main texts on yoga philosophy) about 5000 years ago. Man has indeed not changed and if anything our lifestyles have gotten worse along the way. There is a consequent sutra that talks about companions to these obstacles being irregular breathing, mental and physical pain, sadness and frustration and unsteadiness of the body. (1.31)

Most often it’s one of the above reasons or something related to these reasons that makes one commit or the lack of it to a physical practice and this doesn’t just apply to the yogic context. This could be the case at a gym, a morning walk, a zumba class etc….

My experience and advice to new and fellow practitioners (who sometimes get bored with routine). Put it on your calendar just like you would put a meeting, a kids class, a doctor’s appointment and make it a point to get there. You just have to show up! Trust me you will feel better afterwards. It does take a while to make it a habit and to keep coming regularly. Give yourself a month and more if needed. It will work. But the will and disciple takes time.

I read a recent quote of BKS Iyengar which I think is apt “Will power develops only with regular discipline”. Something to think about when you have a tough time getting to class next time.

  • Sanjyot

    Beautifully written!Thanks for sharing.

    • Arundhati

      Thank you Sanjyot. Means a lot coming from a fellow yoga teacher!

  • Arundhati you have changed my life with your teachings. Your ability to be aware of the finite in each students pose is a huge gift to each one of us. Twenty years ago I fell in love with yoga but then my teacher moved away, my practice followed suit. Then last year with some devine intervention I found you and your wonderful yoga class. This time around I am in my forties instead of my twenties. I’ll never forget how I felt eight months ago while I tried poses I found to be easy in my twenties suddenly feel impossible! It was alarming and I was appalled that I had let my body become so stiff! Now not even a year later I find that I have greatly improved my flexibility and posture. In the nineties I had repetitious yoga with a teacher who did not take care to help us grow in each pose and I still loved it but now I know a new practice. My practice under your tootalidge has brought my strength back in body and mind.
    What u do each and every day is a gift to all of us that have been blessed to call you our teacher!

    • Arundhati

      Awww..Thank you sweetie. I am soooooo happy to hear that yoga makes you feel better and that you have grown in your practice. It takes tremendous dedication to keep returning to class week after week, month after month, year after year. All your efforts will pay off even more in the months to come. Thank you for being so awesome. I hope to learn, grow, teach and serve more…