When I first started to practice yoga, I did not have a clue of what I was doing. All I knew was that my body needed a lot of work; muscles tightness, years of desk work, years of studying, I felt that my body was a broomstick. As I practiced more, my body responded, and my practice culminated to a 90 minute hot yoga session at 30degrees with an empty stomach early on Saturday mornings. Power burst; I felt shattered after each session.
However, as the body changed over the years, and as I got older, facing some personal medical challenges, my approach turned into a mellow, slow, consistent, more appreciative practice, allowing me to build strength posture-on-posture and be able to hold poses for longer and yet, know when to release if the breath became shorter.
So 'devouring' yoga in 90 minutes bursts became more a 'savouring' yoga and its philosophy. Here, I am thinking about the yamas, one of the eight limbs of yoga. I can relate to these universal rules in my everyday's practice.
In the spirit of ahimsa (friendliness, non-violence), I became more considerate and respectful of what the body could do - instead of what the mind wanted the body to do. Practising with satya (truth) in mind, I am more honest and truthful and listen to what the body and breath tell me during my practice, allowing for harmony and balance of body and mind to be restored. If I take a posture that does not belong to me in that moment, I know that I may injure myself; so, practising with asteya (non-stealing) in mind, I give body and breath the opportunity to 'grow' a little bit more each time I am on the mat.
Physiological changes happen all the time; I am not the same as yesterday and tomorrow, well, I am likely to feel or think differently still. Practising with brahmacharya in mind, I do ask myself in class: do I need another downward facing dog or is it more sensible for me today to rest in balasana (child's pose)? Balance this with the principle of aparigraha, (non-hoarding) and I ask myself: am I being overprotective here? Am I 'hoarding' energy and not challenging myself enough?
Progression in yoga is not just about being able to do shoulder stand or headstand, when we are young and fit. Progression in yoga means that it grows with you as you change. As you get older, it adapts to how you change and helps to find balance through discipline and practice, leading to increased self-awareness - on the mat as well as off the mat - to where you are at every stage along the path of life.