In 2008, I started doing yoga as a strategy to improve my physical and psychological well-being. Almost immediately I became hooked onto the energy and meditative calmness I felt after each session, so much so that I became a yogaholic and yearned to discover how yoga could take my body and mind to the next level.
Things Happen on the Mat
As I began my quest, I quickly hit a wall. I was told yoga would take time. Be present on the mat and things will happen. Everyone's journey is different.
But how do I make things happen on the mat for me?
My inability to experience this mysterious sensation brought me to teacher training in 2012 in the hope that perhaps I could find enlightenment in knowledge. Well, you guessed it, “things” still haven’t happened for me on the mat, or if they did they certainly didn't feel like the very same "things" I set out to seek.
Every yogi says he/she is an eternal student and that everyone’s yogic journey is different. Intellectually, I have been trying to find structured ways to seek out this “magic” that happens on the mat. It has been described to me as a deep emotional release, usually happens when we are holding in pigeon pose as a lot of our emotions and stress are stored in the hips. Pigeon pose so far has not brought me the “ah-ha” moment.
I certainly needed some definitive directions, not just the reassurance that it would happen, someday.
Teacher training equipped me with the knowledge of the discipline, what yoga was about and, more importantly, it put yoga practice in perspective for me. I realised that the objective of yoga practice was really just to prepare the body for meditation. The physical aspect of yoga practice builds flexibility and endurance in our bodies to enable us to sit still eventually without aches and pains so that we can rest our minds. This is where the magic happens.
So yoga was about meditation, I thought. During teacher training, I learnt techniques that I was never taught in 3 years’ of attending classes. Being conscious of my body and what each posture is supposed to make me feel, which muscles are flexed or extended has improved my understanding of the physical aspect of yoga. When done correctly and persistently over a long period of time (the magic number is 10,000 according to Malclom Gladwell in his book Outliers), we would be able to master (not perfect all the time though), the discipline. Habits start forming when we do something continuously for 90 days.
A Structured Way to Learn Yoga
Why does everyone need a structured way to learn yoga?
Yoga is about body awareness, not just making shapes. Mirrors in yoga rooms are conducive to this misconception. It is not about the shape or whether we can make the shapes, it is about utilising the correct muscles to manifest the shape.
Rather than checking the mirrors to ensure that our feet are in the right position, our knees are pointing in the same directions as our toes (to avoid pressure on the knees), we should concentrate on engaging the right muscles and feel the posture and not be guided only by the image in the mirror.
Our yogic journey really starts when we start practising consciously with the right techniques. Even for those of us who look to yoga for physical benefits, stretching out tight muscles at the end of a working day, learning the right techniques is essential to ensure that we get the most benefit from the practice and do not injure ourselves in the process.
Motivation to keep doing something comes from a sense of achievement and achievement comes from measurable improvement.
We have all gone through phases where we became obsessed with some pastime. This could be exercising in the gym, practising yoga or playing and training for competitive sports. How many of us have stuck with these pastimes year after year? Reasons for switching or abandoning these could be changes in lifestyle, physical limitations but more often than not, we just didn’t feel like doing that anymore. Many a marathon runner could abruptly cease running for no apparently reason.
Without a purpose and a structured learning program, there is no motivation to continue. There is an innate urge in every one of us to seek improvement in what we do. When faced with a discipline that just requires us to keep turning up on the mat and wait for things to happen doesn’t cut it for most, especially the Type A personalities.
Find a Purpose, Enjoy the Process and Keep Improving
Determine for yourself why yoga is good for your body and mind. Visualise and feel in your body what yoga can do for you and for our loved ones derivatively. A happier and healthier you will mean better relationships with your loved ones, for instance.
You can look forward to a stronger core, fewer episodes of muscle aches and pains, freedom from stress, better sleep, more lean muscles to support your daily movements and training to free up pressure on joints, maintaining a full range motion in joints and generally a stronger body moving into later stages in life.
Learn the correct techniques and know where you are at any point in the discipline and where you are aspiring to be in the next stage. Have clear means and realistic ways to get to the next stage.
The ABC of Yoga
At Yoga XTC, we specialise in the ABC of Yoga that helps you to explore your purpose in choosing yoga as a lifetime discipline, and teach you the correct techniques and ways to build up your A (arm strength), B (balance) and C (core) for a satisfying, challenging and progressive practice.