There is a BEFORE yoga ,
there isn’t an AFTER
or to quote one of my first and maybe most inspiring yoga teachers Kathy Elder “yoga has a beginning, it doesn’t have an end”. I knew she was right, but how right, how much truth about the practice she confined in that sentence, I think I’m still in the beginning to grasp that truth. (If it can be grasped at all)
Yoga isn’t about being flexible , it is not even about becoming flexible, it is about removing the limitations of tightness and weakness, anger and fear, delusion and ignorance .
The journey of yoga, an inward journey, is a never-ending journey without any final destination. Its a process. A process of self-realisation and self-exploration. Inquiry and investigation, together with discipline and wonderment.
Yoga (Especially the Ashthanga sequences and method) is a system, call it a science, and because of that we can see results. Not that it is about results, but we need results to move onwards.
How to measure yoga? That is only what you can do for yourself, and that is one (and maybe the only) thing the yoga practice is about; that internal communication with your Self. But we like something concrete, something our ego, and with that our third chakra, can relate to. We want visual facts. For the practitioner often the question rises of “how long?” How long before I can catch my toes? Have my legs behind the head? Lift up and float to chaturanga? And when can catch my heels? There isn’t an answer, as everyone is different, and we have to honor that. But here are my facts.
I never started yoga because I was flexible, neither because I was strong and stuff like handstand was easy. No, my BEFORE yoga was a super tight body, couldn’t reach my toes with straight legs, and all that stuff like handstands, lotus, back drops, cartwheels and legs behind the head was somethings I couldn’t do, I never did, not even as a child and didn’t know it was possible. If I had seen it before, I was sure you had to be female, Russian, or at least eastern European , and under 12 years old.
That I started yoga, was a mere coincidence (if there is something like coincidence), when a colleague invited me to a a yoga class at the gym. But I did felt the benefits from that first session, and that kept me going on the journey.
And I never started teaching teaching because I was flexible, or that it came easy to me. Even after my YTT I still had so much mobility and body awareness to ‘gain’.
And that journey is ongoing.
To put it on a timeline ;
After a about a year of doing about 3 yoga classes every day I was able to reach my toes in a sitting forward bend.
After about 6 months of doing 3 yoga classes every day, I got introduced to the Ashthanga primary series. I didn’t know anything about it, and I didn’t know that there were more sequences to come, I never heard about jump back vinyasa, floating, kapotanasana or back drop .
I have to say; yoga changed my life, Ashthanga changed my yoga.
After 3 months of Ashthanga I was doing half lotus, and attempting full lotus. Marichyasana D was getting there, and the chest was moving down towards the floor in upavistha konasana. Back bending would be more challenging and slower journey .
These are the BEFORE (after 1 year of daily Ashthanga primary series practice, and 1.5 year of a daily intense yoga asana practice, I just started to manage drop back, coming up was a definitely “not yet”, and I just started practicing at KPJAYI) and AFTER, exactly 5 years later.
The video I shot on my old note book, I can not open anymore on my tablet . And I had to use another ancient laptop to play the out of date video format and record it with my phone.
(Video recordings check Facebook for video #plate486)
And the spine can change, the body can change, that are the concrete visual results.
5 years of practice, often it felt I hardly moved half a millimeter at a stretch or not at all. And its all in progress, it is still moving, changing and it will never stop. Its a story, it is a journey. So if you are tight, if you are stiff, if you feel like you cannot move at all. Take that journey, and it will lead you somewhere, step by little step, breathe by a deeper breathe. Let the asana become a story of journey. And being stiff that journey will be probably more colourful and meaningful. To end with a quote of Iyengar; “natural flexibility is the greatest enemy of yoga “.