Yoga is not about grunt or effort
When I first started yoga I tried so hard to understand what it was all about. In those days, the closest we had to online yoga Iyengar style was CD’s and cassettes. Over time, I wore out some of each! For your yoga, or if you try options for an Iyengar yoga online course, or do it in-studio, here are some tips that I learned the hard way.
I put in a great amount of effort to learn and do the poses I was attempting.
I used to sweat heaps. I tried so hard.
At some point it gradually dawned on me to back off a bit. Instead, I tried to become calmer about what I was trying to do.
Then, I not only gained new insights, but began to enjoy my yoga practice even more.
I can sum it up by saying that less grunt leads to more mindful reflection and progress.
But there is a smart and more mindful way to work at them.
Online Iyengar yoga, or in-studio, needs to be mindful
Manage your effort!
For example, I used to find full arm balance a frightening pose.
I would wear myself out throwing myself time and time again at the wall, trying to lift both feet off the floor.
I now understand that managing effort is key to progressing in yoga.
There is this concept in yoga that dates back thousands of years called “effortless effort”. It means that perfection in asanas comes when the effort to perform it becomes less.
Props help us work towards effortless effort. They allow us to enter the pose without expending so much effort. They also allow us to stay in the pose in a way that lets us become quiet and reflective.
I remember Richard telling me that when he first started to practise backbends he found it near impossible to lift up.
I agree with him. Initially it took so much effort. It seemed impossible to imagine that such a pose could be practised in a calm way.
But overtime you do learn how to refine your effort. You also learn how to use your breath so you can decrease muscular effort.
Instead, you can come into and stay in the pose in a calm way that lets you enjoy fully the experience.
You will need to find that balance between building up arm strength to lift up into this backbend, and staying calm. Then you can perform it without overdoing, and causing the wrong tension in the body.
More about effortless effort
Effortless effort is about finding a point of relaxation, moment to moment.
It does not mean letting everything go loose, floppy, or insufficiently used. Instead, in a pose, you are steady, alert, quiet and reflective.
You can observe yourself, and reflect.
Effortless effort is a clarity and calmness that you bring to the practice.
For example, when you do forearm balance, you have to be able to step back from the pose, and reflect.
Among other things, it lets you see how to do the pose better. In other words, an effortless effort approach allows you to make better and further improvements.
Effortless effort definitely requires effort. However, it’s not a puffing and panting type of effort.
In the process, you are not goal driven in the way we (Westerners) normally understand goals. Doing yoga is not about achieving the pose, or a level of perfection.
I mean it’s not at least achieving it in this way… as a goal in itself.
Instead, in yoga, you are working to become more meditative in your actions. Then, at the same time, you can step back and reflect.
Of course, you do have to have use effort. But what I’m talking about is where it leads to, and the nature of that focussed effort.
Without the approach I’m suggesting, yoga would be just the hot and panting physical focus of a gym, or we would be sluggishly inactive!
The mindfulness that comes from effortless effort is also what delivers the wonderful mental relaxation, and calm intentionality, that you’ll get with yoga.
Best deals for Iyengar yoga, online or in the studio
Start or restart your online yoga, or in-studio, via these generous package for high quality Iyengar yoga.
Beginners get an unlimited mix of up to 9 beginner classes a week, including options like Gentle Yoga, Backcare Yoga, Women Only Yoga, and Easy Restorative Yoga. Do a course package, or just pay by the week. Whichever way you do it, the first 2 weeks are free.
Non-beginner classes give you a timetable of up to 30 classes a week, online or in-studio. You can do 4 different levels, including Advanced or Experienced classes. Many of these are taught by a Senior Iyengar teacher. There’s also a range of special options, including Women Only Yoga, Pranayama, Restorative Yoga, and 50 Plus.
Before you leave this page, save these many free pictorial sequences for yoga practise, or video classes.
See you soon.