The basics of mastery

(No) Thanks to social media, everyone and their yoga buddy seems bent on nailing some fanciful asana or its variations.

“I’m working towards xx arm balance/ inversion/ funky something etc”.

Today’s Power flow, Vinyasa and other themed classes are often planned around a peak pose, feeding the desire to glam up for the gram with a post-class snap. Goal-oriented types say that this gives them something to work towards and keeps them motivated to practice.

While planning a class around peak poses provides guidance and structure, by adopting the same mindset in our practice we could be missing the forest for the trees. Long, repeated holds of adho mukha svanasana, chaturanga dandasana, or ardha hanumanasana may not win you any Insta-likes, but with endurance and consistent efforts (tapasah), new energies are awaken as the physical body and senses become perfected.

Do not despise the days of humble beginnings

I stumbled into yoga in 2016 when a persuasive sales consultant (now a friend) convinced me that the unlimited yoga package the studio was offering was the best deal in town. She wasn’t wrong (otherwise we wouldn’t still be friends, right?); and in fact on hindsight, this was perhaps one of my most life changing investments I ever made of my time and money.

To get the most bang out of my buck, I went for as many classes as I had the time and energy for. Although I was moderately active even before yoga, years of poor postural habits and hidden imbalances were immediately revealed in the most basic of yoga asanas. For the first two years, my yoga schedule (and fluctuating mind) looked somewhat like this:

Hatha Beginners (Where’s child’s pose?)

Gentle yoga (Errrmmm…you call bada konasana uttasana gentle..?)

Therapy (This is a core class in disguise…)

Stretch (The struggle is real)

Yin (The ultimate passive-aggressive…looks like I’m doing nothing but….&*%$#)

Hips and spine (Who in their right mind came up with these twists and revolved asanas??)

And of course, everyone’s favourite CORE class (slow burn, even slower counting…Navasana again??!!)

Vinyasa? Ashtanga? Hatha Intermediate ?

I wouldn’t go anywhere near those classes with a barge pole.

Tapas: Austerities transform impurities

Slowly but surely, my physical body began to change. I started noticing my back aches going away, the feeling of standing taller, breathing better and just gaining new strength. I also found better focus and better sleep. Ailments like constipation and irregular menstrual cycles took care of themselves. Practice, and all is coming.

After more than two years of practice averaging 7-8 hrs a week, I decided to move out of my comfort zone. I didn’t think much wanting to progress then, but I remember that it didn’t take long for me to find bakasana, various other arm balances and just leveling up my practice. In fact, it took me far longer working on my hamstrings in any forward fold, finding stillness in a 5 second navasana hold, or to appreciate the gentle and therapeutic effects of bada konasana uttanasana.

2.47 Prayatna Saithilya Ananta Sumapathibhyam

By relaxing effort and fixing the mind on the infinite [asana is perfected]

The basics of mastery is simply to master the basics.