Yoga Sutras 1.21-1.22: Intention Correlates with Progress

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1.21: TĪVRA SAMVEGĀNĀM ĀSANNAH.
To the keen and intent practitioner, this [samadhi] comes very quickly.

1.22: MRDU MADHYĀDHIMĀTRATVĀT TATO’PI VIŚESAH
The time necessary for success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium or intense.

 Simple advice plainly stated.

Dedicate yourself to your practice. Dedicate yourself to evolving. Be studious, and choose the most challenging practice you’re able to do. Even if you’re doing very simple poses or the most basic pranayama, practice with intense focus and utmost sincerity.

The degree of dedication you have to your practice directly correlates to the degree of impact the practice will have on your life. If you practice once a week and forget about it the rest of the time, the progress will be slow. You may forget things between sessions or just feel that you’re not getting anywhere. If you incorporate your practice into your daily life in small or large ways, your progress will speed up significantly.

If you know just one or two yoga poses or a simple meditation technique, try practicing every day for 5-10 minutes and make note of if/how it changes your day. Do you feel any differently? Think any differently? Can you apply yogic ideas such as ahimsa or breath awareness into other aspects of your day?

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How to Be a Better Teacher

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Step 1: Practice More

You can’t teach what you don’t know. Practice every day. Pay attention to the effects of your practice on your own body and mind. Deepen your awareness. Get intimately familiar with any pose or technique that you want to teach to your students.

Step 2: Modify

Study the poses with your students’ needs in mind. If they have limited mobility, tightness, hyper-flexibility, injuries or illness, look for ways to make the poses’ effects accessible despite those challenges. Use all the tools and props at your disposal if it helps the student.

Step 3: Learn from Others

Keep going to other yoga classes whenever you can. If you can’t make it to class (i.e. it’s too damn cold outside and you refuse to leave the house) study what other teachers have to say in books, blog posts, magazine articles and online videos. However you do it, just keep learning.

Step 4: Branch Out

Do something besides yoga. Especially if you’re a full-time yoga teacher, it’s easy to get in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again. Go roller skating, take a jog, try an aerobics or spin class. Challenge your body in a different way and then try your practice again. Notice how this changes your practice, and incorporate that knowledge into your class.

Step 5: Listen

When students ask questions or give you feedback, they’re letting you know what they need. They may remember pieces of breath work from previous classes, or they might not understand the alignment of the hips in a certain pose. The feedback they give you can tell you where they’re experiencing challenges, where they’d like to learn more, and how you can give more clear and helpful instructions.

Step 6: Honor the Student

Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean you’re more advanced than the student. It just means that you have a certain skill set you can share. Honor the students’ unique experience and personal wisdom, and encourage them to honor the same in themselves. The true teacher is the inner guru, and it’s your job to help them find it within themselves.

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Yoga Sutra 1.14: Are we there yet?

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SA TU DĪRGHA KĀLA NAIRANTARYA SATKĀRĀSEVITO DRDHABHŪMIH.
Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.

Yoga practice is like climbing a huge mountain. You can’t even see the top, nor do you know if or when you will reach it. Knowing that, you can choose to set up camp on the mountain side and be happy where you are, which is a completely legit decision. Most people don’t do that because humans feel compelled to make progress all the time, so we climb. We pick our path up the mountain based on what seems right for us. Some people like to go up the steep rock face because they enjoy the challenge. Some people prefer a leisurely hike up the verdant side. That’s why we have so many styles of yoga practice to choose from. But whatever path you pick, you have to stick to it. When your practice becomes consistent, then you start to see real results in your life.

How long do you have to commit to the practice? As long as it takes. If after every step you look up to the top of the mountain and complain about not being there yet, it’s going to take a whole lot longer. If you keep taking one step after another and maybe even learn to enjoy the journey, then before you know it, you’re really getting somewhere.

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