In the past six years of leading yoga teacher trainings, we have witnessed the incredible transformation of many students — from not even knowing how to practice to developing a deep understanding of their bodies and minds.
It is important to keep in mind that although the benefits of yoga comes with consistent practice, the yoga practice itself cannot be accelerated or rushed. There are no short cuts in this journey, as your ability to deepen your personal practice will depend on your level of self-awareness and self-connection — the only way to cultivate both of these is by practicing and experiencing them on and off the yoga mat.
In this case, we must take into consideration these two main ingredients in our yoga practice: consistency and quality. If you lack consistency, your awareness will grow at a slower pace, thus limiting its positive effects on your life. The quality of your practice, on the other hand, will depend on your ability to keep your awareness (as often as possible) on the breathing when you practice.
Quality in the asana practice consists of to be aware of the breathing as often as possible. When you are aware of the breathing and flow in synchrony with the movement, all the other aspects of the practice — such as the right effort (not too intense, nor too loose), acceptance towards your body and mind, and humility, to name a few — will follow through naturally. The breath is the most powerful tool we have, not only in our practice, but also in our life. When our attention is on the breath, we can cultivate equanimity and neutrality, as we are less attached to feelings of attraction and rejection. Also, it helps us anchor ourselves to the present moment, and eventually it will become a subtle vehicle that will allow us to move from the external aspects to the internal aspects of the practice.
Concistency In the Ashtanga practice, traditional teachers recommend practicing six days a week, keeping one day a week free for rest. However, jumping into this type of routine without developing enough discipline will likely produce stress, frustration, and rejection towards the practice. A gentler, more realistic practice schedule according to your time availability — whether it’s just one hour a day, three times a week or even less — and build your practice from there. If you are new to the practice, the most important thing is to practice just enough in order to cultivate love for the practice. This love is what is going to give you the inner strength to establish a committed daily practice.
When these two elements — consistency and quality — are firmly inculcated in your practice already, you will be able to train yourself to be have more awareness and the ability to recognize the results of your practice quicker. Eventually, this hightened awareness will be carried into your daily life as well — and this is where the practice greatly impacts and affects your life in a positive way.
Awareness on and off the mat is key. Keep on practicing!