By Amy Leonard-King

"The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships." - T.K.V. Desikachar

Do you find yourself scrolling through an Instagram feed full of fit, tanned bodies in Yoga 'poses' that seem to you impossible or super-human? Or perhaps you’re in class and out of the corner of your eye you catch a glimpse of someone sailing through a series of movements that look amazingly beautiful and effortless but are maybe not exactly what you thought the teacher had asked you to do? How does that make you feel? Excited, inspired and inquisitive? Or is there a hint of jealousy, perhaps insecurity creeps in, and you catch yourself thinking 'I could never do that, that's impossible'? In today’s world of image-based promotion, marketing, and social media, resulting in constant and often critical self-comparison, let's remember the real wisdom behind the practice of Yoga and in particular, the practice of 'asana'.

Asana means ‘seat’ or ‘connection to the earth’, and thus we find ourselves in Yoga class making shapes with our bodies that are always connected to the ground in some way, whether feet or hands, forearms or spine, every posture will have a connection to the earth. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras he writes:

YS II.46 sthira sukham asanam = The connection to the earth should be steady and joyful

Taking this advice, what we need to do is go inwards in our experience of practicing Yoga postures or ‘asana’, rather than looking at ourselves and others from the outside. In each shape that we make in Yoga class, the names that are called out by the teacher are more often than not animals, objects from the natural world, and other human characters. ‘Tree pose’ (vrkshasana),  ‘Mountain Pose’ (Tadasana), ‘Cobra’ (Bhujangasana), ‘Warrior’ (Virabhadrasana). Through the practice of asana we are looking to embody these beings on a vibrational level, becoming the tree, mountain, cobra, and warrior, and resonating with each of them, growing our own awareness and understanding of who we are along the way.

The depth of your asana practice does not need to be measured by how you look in any certain pose, whether you can grab your foot behind your head, or stand balancing on one hand, but rather by your ability to finely tune your awareness to the present moment and task at hand. Can you be steady in your breath and joyful in your heart whilst sitting in ‘Chair’ pose (Utkatasana) for 5 long breaths? Can you keep your mind dedicated to an intention of enlightenment whilst flowing through smooth, linking Vinyasa? Can you completely let go of any attachment to your body and mind, and set your spirit truly free in Savasana?

Next time you begin to worry about the ‘advancement’ of your practice, or catch yourself comparing your Warrior 2 with your neighbouring yogi, stop and take a deep breath, and then dive inwards to witness the rich landscape of learnings you can eek out of every moment in your practice. Remember also that asana is just one lonesome limb of the eight-limbed path of Yoga that has been passed down from over 2000 years ago, and there’s a lot more to our practice than making pretty shapes and sharing them with cyberspace via a quick click, filter, tag and post.

Happy practicing yogis xx


1 Comment