A question every yoga teacher regularly hears is:
How often do you practice?
The questioner expects an impressive answer, something that would motivate him to do the same. The ideal Ashtanga teacher wakes up a 4.30 am, practises from 5 till 6.30 am and then teaches three to four hours Mysore classes. And this we should do every day!
When students hear such a perfect story – which mostly is not true – they admire the teacher endlessly, but they also think that he or she is a bit crazy or at least not normal. They think this is what dedication to the practice of Yoga should look like. They want the teacher to be an unreachable role model, so they can feel bad about themselves, when they are not so perfect, not so dedicated, not so admirable. And then they like to beat themselves up because of it.
Frankly, that is a lot of bullsh*!
Sharat Jois, grandson of the famous guru Pattabhi Jois, gave the perfect answer to the question above:
“I practice Yoga 24 hours, 356 days a year.”
(Sharath Jois on How to Live a Yogic Lifestyle, Youtube-video, 22.06.2016)
Yes, that is what a perfect yogi does.
People from the so called Western World usually confuse physical exercise with yoga practice.
When it comes to Ashtanga they think a yogi has to practice every day Primary or Secondary Series and has to be able to do all kind of circus positions. If one can’t than he or she is not a real “Ashtangi”. The reason for that perception lies in our obsession with our physical appearance, in the beauty ideal of being slim and fit and in the ignorance of the mental and spiritual parts of Ashtanga Yoga.
Most people don’t even know that ASHTA means eight and describes an eight-folded path. This path includes among other things ethic and moral rules (Yamas and Niyama), breathing exercises (Pranayama) and meditation (Dhyana). The practice of Yoga includes things like not lying, not stealing, dedication to the task at hand, conscious breathing and over all the intent to become a better person, who works to reduce pain and suffering in the world.
We practice yoga when we are honest to ourselves and to others, when we get aware of our own quirks and mistakes and try to do no harm but to have a positive influence on the world. The physical exercise (Asana) – that might look so impressive at times – is just a vehicle on this path, a very useful tool to heal, to gain not only physical but also mental strength, to keep calm in difficult situations and to learn how to breath correctly, even when life is taking our breath away.
So don’t beat yourself up when you can’t find the time for a physical yoga practice, there are a million other ways of how to practice yoga. Be kind to yourself and to others. That is the right way to practice yoga.