I recently had someone tell me they’d been doing yoga for 4-5 weeks and was utterly discouraged because they’d not seen any improvements in flexibility or strength. When I asked what they’d been doing, they mentioned a DVD. I cringed only slightly (I don’t think they noticed), and strongly suggested getting to a class with a qualified instructor as I do with anyone who is new to the practice. Then I asked how often they were using the DVD; 2 days a week. Hmmm, often times 2 days a week is just enough to keep yogis coming back for more because they’re noticing some benefit. This improvement doesn’t always appear physically in the form of flexibility or strength right away, but frequently appears mentally first as a sense of equanimity and peace. When I asked how long the DVD was, that’s when I got the stunner – 15 minutes! This individual was sincerely disappointed, genuinely baffled at their lack of progress, ready to cut up the sticky mat and use it for packing material!!
We read in the Yoga Sutra, chapter 1 verse 21, that
“The highest yogic results will come quickly to those who practice asana intensely on a daily basis.”
Here’s the deal; you get out of it what you put into it. If I’m going on a diet, I can’t expect to lose any weight if I only eat healthy one day a week – or one meal a week. If I’m training to run a marathon, I would be sorely mistaken if I thought I would be ready on race day having only run two days a week. If one wants to see results from their yoga practice; one needs to be consistent in their efforts. B.K.S. Iyengar explains the previous sutra by assuring us the “goal is near for those who are enthusiastic, intense and energetic in their practice”. Practicing 15 minutes of yoga is great – if you do it enthusiastically, intensely and energetically everyday.
The challenge has been laid before you to practice meditation daily. What, you don’t remember that? Go back and read the January issue. Consider this daily dose of asana and meditation as akin to putting deposits into a savings account. Steady practice, when done daily (and with enthusiasm please!), will provide us with an enormous balance from which to draw upon when we need it most. But, we must persevere. Practicing for two hours straight once a week won’t cut it. Steady practice, daily. That’s the draw.
I couldn’t begin to touch my toes when I started practicing yoga 6 ½ years ago. Not a chance. I certainly didn’t have the strength to hold myself up in a headstand. Strength builds in increments. We don’t lose our strength and flexibility overnight, so why do we expect to gain it overnight? That’s a tough nut to swallow in our instant-gratification-based culture. Some of us have been making poor lifestyle choices for years which lead to numerous aches, pains and dis-ease. Yoga has the power to heal; we just need to take the medicine as prescribed!