My Yoga teacher Ian Davis recently shared a quote from the following article https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201109/yoga-changing-the-brains-stressful-habits. “As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga's greatest neurobiological benefit.” He goes on to explain the mechanisms at work. It is an interesting read.
Sometimes in preparing students for a challenging asana I find it helpful to remind them (and me) that yoga asana is not about perfectly executing the poses. The work is being done in the figuring out and being okay with that: learning to coordinate movement, noticing what needs to work and what doesn’t, monitoring your efforts with the breath, reflecting on your attitude and feelings.
Some students begin yoga but they are disappointed in their performance and give up quickly. They blame their body and yet it is their mind state where they face their greatest challenge. Yoga exposes you to yourself, and this can be a hard thing to see.
Also consider this: if you feel you have mastered a yoga pose (or anything), it may be time to ditch it and give yourself a new challenge. Or time to question your sense of self mastery and perhaps discover you have only just scratched the surface of it. All with a sense of equanimity, no recrimination, no judgement. Calm amidst the chaos. What’s not to like??
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.