Lots of times I’ve heard people say “Oh no, I don’t do yoga, I’m no good at it,” or “I can’t do yoga, I’m terrible at it.”
Yet, as much as they protest I always try to argue that not only does it not matter if you think you can’t do it, but there really isn’t such a thing as being “good at yoga.”
Now, of course, with consistent asana practice you can improve your physical yoga.
Yes we can all develop our skills and get increasingly better balance in a headstand, or increase our strength in arm balances such as bakasana, our hips can become more open, our spine more straight, and yes, the day my heels touched the mat in downward dog sure felt like an achievement!
In that sense we can all improve and become “better” at yoga.
But what is yoga?
The “essence” of Yoga
It is not just a physical practice, it is physical, mental and spiritual.
And all about the breath.
So if you can breathe, move, and attempt to focus, then you can do yoga. Twisting yourself into various positions and sitting in meditation for hours does not mean you are ‘good’ at yoga.
Yoga is a process.
Even the most accomplished yogis and practitioners in the world are still on their journey, they are still following a path. In other words, there is no ‘end’ to yoga. It’s not like ‘yes! Nailed the headstand, now I’m a true yogi. Now I can sleep well.’
Yoga is a practice which is personal to each individual.
Classes bring the energy of all these individuals together which creates a nice atmosphere in a room, but really the person on the mat next to you has nothing to do with your class, it is your practice; which is why it doesn’t matter if you practice in a class full of people, or on your own at home.
Each time you step onto your mat, you are learning something.
This could be learning about your limits, what you are capable of-which can often surprise us, you could be learning something new about yoga-expanding your knowledge — perhaps you are gaining more insight into the physical or mental benefits of yoga or even the meditative and spiritual nature of your practice.
Yoga differs to other forms of practice in that there is no superficial goal in sight. The goal of meditation is ultimately liberation of the self, or enlightenment, but by not achieving this we are not putting the rest of our build-up to no use — in fact the build-up is just as crucial, as they say: it is not the destination that counts, but the journey.
The “practice” of Yoga
If we look at another form of practice such as learning to play the piano.
Perhaps we start to take piano lessons and gradually over time we increase our ability to play the piano more efficiently. We increase this ability through practice. We are doing so in order to be able to play to a certain level, certain degrees of difficulty, we want to be able to play that song or perform in that concert or just to be able to play to a certain level because we can.
Yoga differs in that we are not striving to “achieve” something.
Yes there are always those poses that we want to improve upon, but when we have finally achieved a handstand, we have not achieved the ultimate goal of yoga. Because there is not an ultimate goal.
It is an ongoing practice, it benefits us in so many ways, that stopping would just be silly!
Yoga is a lifestyle, not a talent.
We do it for the good of our bodies and minds. We don’t compete with it, which is why the ego is dropped.
So, regardless of how “good” you think you are at yoga, you are still doing it.
If you practice yoga no matter how far your heels are away from the ground, no matter how long you can sit in meditation, you are still practicing yoga because yoga works with you, not against you.