The journey of yoga. Oh what a journey it is! I salute all of you who I see on their mats week in and week out, slowly chipping away at your yoga practice. You’ll begin to realise that with each new practice, your body is completely different. Some days you find more space in the body, and freedom in your joints. Other days, you feel stiffer than the very first time you started yoga. The path of yoga is anything but linear. On those bad days, when we feel like we’ve taken 5 steps backward, we tend to be very hard on ourselves. “What have I done wrong to be so stiff today?”. We question our knowledge, our intuition, our ability, our thought and reason as to why we’re not as in shape as we were last week. And that’s the path of yoga; self enquiry. 

If you are a serious asana student, you will have gone through moments where you wonder on a deeper level why you get these off days. You might be beating yourself up over a practice-related injury, or a sore muscle, and it may leave you thinking there must be something wrong with you, your awareness of the poses or your body, the way you’re practicing, the way your mind is during practice, or that your ego is causing you to go too far in yoga which can cause this pain. Because if we were more skilled, aware, content, then surely we shouldn’t have pain as a result of yoga?

Wrong. This is exactly how yoga works. It provides us with a mirror with which to see ourselves more clearly. It brings up all the ways we self sabotage and it illuminates our weaknesses and habits that need changing. This is why showing up to your yoga practice consistently is challenging, because not only are you physically working hard, but we are working through our traumas and emotional pains too. During yoga we are confronted with opportunities to change all the time. When you do yoga you are practicing a method of self examination and self reflection, giving you the power to change things. Your practice reveals how you personally enforce your own suffering, and gives you the space and reflection to be able to change your responses to situations. 

But don’t beat yourself up! If you are feeling frustrated or pained in your practice, don’t let the emotions of shame, frustration, guilt and fear get the better of you. No one is perfect, and we all run into obstacles along our yoga journey. It doesn’t mean that your third eye isn’t as open as the person next to you, or that you don’t have enough humility or self awareness. The next time you meet yourself on your mat and you feel “nowhere”, your challenge that day is perhaps not the physical yoga poses, but to extend kindness, non-judgement, compassion and care to yourself.