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Success in Yoga isn't Arm Balances?

I have a thing I say in class. I’m pretty sure my regulars think I’m a broken record. But still, I think it’s important. I call it the transferrable skills of yoga. “If you can relax here, you can relax in traffic. Or in a long line when you’re already late, or your kid does something, or you get a ridiculous bill in the mail, etc. etc."

Whether you get into a long flowing sequence or a deep hip stretch, your mind has two possible paths – either freak out, or hang out. Sometimes we totally lose our attention, lose our focus, and we end up frazzled. And we sacrifice it without thinking to stay in the pose, or deepen it. It happens automatically because we’re human.

That’s when I say it. When you’re 30 seconds into lizard lunge or our 4th repetition of Sun B’s in a 85 degree room. When the mind starts getting caught up. This is NOT about making a shape with your body. There’s no trophy for deepest hip opener in class.  This is practice. It’s running drills in your nervous system. It’s dress rehearsal for stressful shit.

If you can really intentionally relax your mind and nervous system there on the mat when you’re up to your ears in sensation, you can do it anywhere. We’re training the mind like a muscle how to react under stress.

If you can breathe deeply and evenly in frog pose, you can do it when you get rear ended when you’re late for a meeting. If you can learn to stay calm and steady when you’re getting tired in a hot flow, you can handle standstill traffic on your drive home. If you can give a big balance pose the focus and attention it needs, you can do it when you're cutting a deadline way too close.

Every pose is just another venue to practice staying steady. When we first start, it's hard to stay focused and steady in sukhasana. Then it gets easier. So then you start trying to stay focused in a different pose, like trikonasana. Then you master that one. That's why we keep advancing to different postures. That's why we do so many asanas. Each one is just a different setting to practice at. Just like a video game - you move on to different levels and challenges as you go.

This is all just practice. In the end, you aren’t successful in yoga when you can do grasshopper pose effortlessly. You’re successful in yoga when you can leave the room steadier than you were when you came in. When you can breathe deeply in a way that you can actually notice a difference in your nervous system. Success in yoga should be measured by what happens off the mat. NOT what happens on the mat or in your social media feed.


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