No pain, no gain?
We’ve been trained to think this way – to believe that we have to suffer in order to achieve anything of real merit.
We’ve been taught to believe that things that come easily are not worth as much as those things that we struggle for.
We’ve been educated to believe that being busy is a virtue.
Doing less is one of those great ideas that we all love to ignore. Less is more, we say, while we rush about doing more, buying more, selling more, being more.
So it should be no surprise that we bring these beliefs with us when we turn up on our yoga mat.
Steadiness and ease
One of the things I’ve heard most often from the 30 days of yoga tribe is their relief when I wrote to them all reminding them that their commitment to doing yoga every day for 30 days didn’t mean they had to do the same full asana practice every day.
There is real benefit in choosing a clear focus and making a commitment to that focus for 30 days. This is the heart of the 30 days of yoga challenge. We have each identified our intention and our focus and we’ve made a commitment to honouring that intention.
But yoga is about the balance between steadiness and ease. In yoga we are invited to move into that space where strength and flexibility co-exist. It takes strength to honour our commitment, but it takes the wisdom of flexibility to know when we should honour it by doing less.
If we are inviting balance into our lives through our yoga then we need to be mindful of what we already have a lot of in our lives. Many of us, especially in the West, already have lots of ‘busyness’, lots of striving, and lots of pressure.
For some of us there is a lot of strength and focus and what we are inviting more of, through our yoga, is ease. Sometimes, we pay attention to the truth about our current state and we know that what yoga is inviting us to do is less.
Intentions and sankalpa
After my post about setting an intention last week I received a lovely email from Swami Karma Karuna of the Anahata Retreat, a Satyananda yoga centre in New Zealand. She felt that my explanation of sankalpa was a little bit casual and kindly shared some great quotes about sankalpa from the teachers of her tradition.
Swami Satyananda taught that sankapla must be very precise and clear and repeated over a long period of time in order to reach the deeper layers of the mind where it can have a real affect. Repetition over a 30 day sadhana might only be the beginning of your work with a sankalpa.
In his book Yoga Nidra, Swami Satyananda says:
“You must choose your sankapla very carefully. The wording should be precise and clear, otherwise it will not penetrate the subconscious mind.”
He also says:
“Use only one sankapla according to your needs and inclinations. Do not be in a hurry. Once you have chosen a sankalpa, you must not change it for another. Don’t expect results overnight. Time is required depending on the nature of the resolve and the degree to which it is planted in the mind.”
No ‘shoulds’, no rush
So yoga invites you to take a break from any pressure you may feel to do the practice that you think you ‘should’ be doing. As long as you remain true to the intention you have chosen, you are honouring your commitment. Some days that may mean a full asana practice, some days it might mean a long savasana.
There is also no rush. Take your time. In my experience the deep changes that come with a committed regular yoga practice come slowly, over time. There is nowhere to be, there is no deadline to get there.