Once upon a time, I used to swim every single day. I got better with practice but it was only when I began swimming in London public pools that I got really FAST!
Unlike over here in sunny Malaysia, Londoners are very orderly. There are lanes cordoned off for fun-seekers, then lanes for beginners, then moderate-paced, and finally for fast swimmers.
In the middle of winter, in an outdoor heated pool, I decided to try my luck with moderate-paced swimmers. Over there, you would be swimming hand to feet and very few people swam anything but the front crawl / freestyle stroke.
I kept slapping the feet of the swimmer ahead of me and I just couldn’t slow my pace. This was even when I was using a pull buoy.
So I tried my luck with the fast swimmers and the tables were turned. The guy behind me kept slapping my feet and once or twice I had to dive down to allow those behind me to overtake above me.
But I persevered and in a few weeks, I kept pace with the best of them in the fast lanes of the outdoor swimming pool (in winter).
Yoga is much like this, especially if you are seeking to improve in the physical practice on the mat.
Are you flatlining?
If you seek improvement in your yoga practice, you may want to ask yourself a few questions, especially if you are attending the same level classes all the time.
Firstly, are you flatlining? If you attend a certain yoga school, do you attend the same level class all the time? Does your yoga guru or teachers suggest you progress to a more advanced level?
Do you shy away from these options? If you are happy where you are in your practice, then this is totally okay. But if your own guru under whom you have been practising makes this suggestion, then he sees potential. And for sure, if he is a good yoga teacher, he would have been able to gauge your capabilities (unless you have some issue that is not evident and not disclosed to him).
Remember that expansion (if you seek it) requires courage. Growth does not take place in your comfort zone.
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Is your teacher suggesting you try more challenging yoga asana?
A good yoga teacher would be able to discern among his regulars who has the physical capabilities to undertake certain yoga poses. Sometimes, especially with inversions, it may be less the teacher’s determination but more the practitioner’s gumption.
Speaking from experience, I know which of my students can go deeper in a backbend, who can open up into a deeper hip-opener, and who has the physical ability to move into a headstand.
All I can do though is encourage and support your movement on the mat. There is no compulsion, there is no ‘forcing you’ because if the motivation and courage is not there, then the body won’t move where the mind refuses to go.
One point I would like to make is that if you are serious about your expansion and are a reasonably new practitioner (five years or less of regular practice), then perhaps try to stick to no more than three different teachers (preferably, two teachers max) for your mat practice.
In this way, they will get to know you and your capabilities and vice-versa. In addition, if you find yourself flitting from teacher to teacher, it is highly likely that your yoga practice won’t have that progression or development you seek.
If you find you’re bored on the mat, or your practice is stale, then you may want to consider changing up your yoga classes or practice.
You could choose to level up or level down, either way is fine. If levelling down bores you even more, then you know you should definitely level up at some point – provided you do want expansion.
Being bored or finding your practice stale may also be a symptom of overtraining, so on its own, my suggestion is to vary to a more chill practice first before re-assessing your next move.
Are you selling yourself short?
I have a friend, a former client, who wanted to join me and Eddy in a class practice. We told her we were going for a level 2 class, and she hesitated- which surprised me.
Being her former trainer / teacher, I knew she wasn’t level 1. With some trepidation, she joined the class and realised it wasn’t as hard as she thought it was. While preferring the more relaxed vibes of level 1, she understood that the level 2 classes benefited her physical (and therefore mental and emotional) processes better.
Is this you?
Remember that expansion or growth doesn’t take place within your comfort zone, so don’t miss out on opportunities that are there for yourself.
I hope this blog post helps you. Do contact me to discuss any points or reservations you may have!