What is progress in practice?

Yoga is not about asana perfection

How about compassion towards yourself and others?

I wanted to share a few notes on what progress in practice means. I feel it’s easy to take an unbeneficial take on what constitutes progress.  In our material and consumerist culture, most of us are conditioned to “perform” and function far beyond the best of our abilities all the time, comparing ourselves constantly to those around us.  By default most of us then also adopt such attitude in our yoga practice, in that a consuming / achieving-something-attitude towards practice. Shedding such deep-rooted conditioning and consuming mindset can be a life-time project, this inner work from achieving towards compassion takes time and is not finished from the first to second day on the mat (for most of us).

Don’t measure your progress in practice by whether you can bind, or jump back or through…. Just relating to your progress in practice by physical means – how far or deep you can go in an asana – is material and seats you back in the consuming state of mind. Of course, being able to go deeper, bind, ….. these are all breakthroughs, which also associate with psychological and energetic breakthroughs. Yet, it’s best not to attach our measure of “progress” just on our physical ability level. Fact is, our bodies change –  ALL THE TIME, the demands and responisibitlies of our days change, the weather changes constantly, we get older (what a big present to be able to grow older!),…. all this affects us  – and thereby our physical abilities.

By just measuring progress in practice on the physical level we not only limit ourselves and our perception, but we may also run the risk of judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to our past (or our projected future) elves and others; and attach to asana. That is not the point of yoga.

For me the whole purpose of practice is to be able to be with what is and to develop compassion for ourselves (and our bodies) – altogether meeting our inner and outer world with more grace, acceptance and compassion.  Now, if you are asking yourself about your progress in practice, observe whether you can scale practice down for yourself on days you are really tired, whether you are ok with how far your body can go today even if it’s not as deep as yesterday, whether you started to let go (even if it’s just a bit) of comparing yourself to others (on and off the mat), how you are with yourself and how you are with others.  Practice should ulitmately foster more compassion  – everywhere.  Adopt compassion as your measure of progress. 

Another word on progress: Progress is not linear – healing / growth is not linear (sorry!). If anything we grow in spirals, ever coming back to the same place, but from a higher state of awareness. Sometimes it can feel like going in circles, but it only appears like this if we only look at progress in one dimension – or one unit of measure. Progress is a full 360 experience, just one tiny shift in one area can transform our entire system.

Having written all of this, of course, I cheer with you big-time when you are having an asana breakthrough, at the same time I cheer with you big time when you are having a self-care breakthrough (when perhaps you don’t do a full practice because you are more tired, or you modify or I witness your self-talk becoming softer).  

(Posted 17 July, 2019)

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