This morning, a yoga student asked me - “Hey, you’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga for a long time now - do you feel like you still have a lot to learn?
Yes, absolutely yes.
You see - when I began my yoga journey in 2004, I really had no idea what I was in for.
The first few years, I was hot and cold with my practice. I was incredibly inconsistent!
I would like to say that my life was different then, but really, it was that my priorities were different.
Of course, family was and continues to be my number one priority to this day, but back then I prioritized long working hours and material success over many things -including my own health and self care.
I’m going to be honest, my yoga practice was not only inconsistent - it was sporadic.
For the first few months, I tried Bikram, but when summer hit, I lost my ability to go from a hot yoga room to a hot day and be cool with it.
Then, I practiced with an Iyengar teacher for 4 years until she it was time for her to take a break from teaching..
I missed her, but again, I wasn’t fully committed. Once she closed her studio doors, I stopped practicing.
Then followed years of teacher trainings which opened me up to many teachers and various traditions.
But still, I hadn’t quite made the commitment.
You may be asking why reflect on back then, when you have made the commitment now?
Because even though the ritual of daily practice means that yoga is woven into the daily fabric of of my life — it doesn’t mean that it’s still easy. It doesn’t mean that it always gets better either.
Funny enough, another student asked this question this morning: “What do I need to do to stay consistent to my practice? How can I make this commitment to get up every morning and practice.”
Explore your why.
Why do you practice?
Because it is this answer that will help you dig deep in those moments to overcome the obstacles to your own practice.
It wasn't until 2013 - almost a whole DECADE later, that I finally made a commitment to a consistent daily practice.
At that time in my life I was looking for a practice that would ground me. I was seeking for something I could do every day that would make it hard to say no to commitment.
This is when I discovered the primary series in Ashtanga yoga.
I remember the very first led class.
It felt so different from what I was used to. I also didn’t understand why we had to pick up and jump back between the seated postures.
I also didn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would get up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to do the same practice, everyday, six days a week.
For someone who’s a multi passionate learner, making the commitment to do the same practice every day was, well, a pretty big freaking deal.
But I stuck with it. I made the commitment and kept going.
Now, almost 7 years later, I’m still doing this daily thing.
I’m doing this daily practice, even though my body has gone through so many changes and challenges.
As R. Sharath Jois, paramaguru of the Ashtanga yoga lineage said in his conference at Stanford University last week - “most of the answers you are seeking, you will find in your practice.”
Sharath also asked his students this one important question - “What is Ashtanga yoga to you?”
To me - ashtanga yoga is about showing up.
It’s a return to my breath. A return to myself. An opportunity to face what I tend to run away from.
Often, what I face can be incredibly challenging—like loving and accepting my own shadow.
Sometimes, what I face is surrender and opening up to grace.
Ultimately, ashtanga yoga for me to me is devotion.
It's learning how to weave the Yamas and Niyamas (moral codes and ethics) into every day life.
I still hope to practice for many more years. Asanas will come and asanas will go. The breath will come, and the breath will eventually go.
If there’s one thing lesson that Ashtanga has shown me is that as much as you want to hold on to something, you cannot hold on to it for too long. For nothing is permanent. Everything changes.
While I know that many more lessons lie ahead in this journey, here are the top FIVE I’ve observed so far:
The true guru of the practice IS the practice.
Show up for your practice with the body you have today, not the body you think you should have.
Ahimsa (non-violence) must be practiced. Without ahimsa, no transformation will happen. This is ahimsa not only in your actions, but in your thoughts and words.
Compassion is the key to greater acceptance and understanding.
Love is the antidote to fear, envy, greed, hate, pride, and all patterns that create more suffering
For now, I’ll keep doing this daily practice and I’m sure after another decade passes, I’ll look back and see how much more the practice had changed over the years.
Until then, keep practice. Keep breathing. Love.
Tell me what are the biggest lessons you’ve observed so far in your own yoga practice?
Drop a line in the comments below - I’d love to hear from you.
PS - If you’re curious about Ashtanga yoga, or know anyone who’s interested in this practice - please check out the upcoming Mother’s Day Intro to Ashtanga Yoga class on Sunday, May 12 at 3:30 pm.
We’ll be closing practice with a deeply relaxing yoga nidra practice to nurture and nourish you.
Space is limited! Not sure yet if you can come? Not to worry, drop me an email to pre-reserve your mat space today.
Ready to commit to practice?