Your yoga practice? Your running practice? Your cooking practice? Your sleeping practice? Your smiling at strangers practice?
Whatever it is, we only get better if we practice.
I’m a millennial (sorry guys) I grew up in a world where I could call my mom from one end of the house to the other to ask her to do something. I spent hours online at the age of 14 on MSN messenger having instant chats with all my friends that I had just spent the whole day with at school. I can get cash out of a wall, better still I can transfer cash from the swipe of a piece of plastic, or even better via an iPhone (who actually remembers their pin number these days?).
I can pay on instant, I can talk to my friend Paul in America in an instant, I can FaceTime my nieces and nephews in Ireland in an instant. I can book a holiday in seconds, I don’t even need to leave my house to go to a gym if I don’t want to thanks to YouTube… I grew up in a world full of instant gratification. And that world is only ever becoming more instant, ready and on demand.
Instant gratification is in my psyche – it’s part of who I am – I hate to say it but if I don’t get at least 20 likes on an Instagram photo within the first five minutes I think it’s a failure.
That’s just the world I grew up in, and I’m 33, imagine what the kids today have to put up with?
As a kid I practiced handwriting – in all my old school reports, every year I said ‘I want to improve my handwriting’, and you know what? I did. I did and it was great – pretty neat if I’m honest – a darn sight neater than the scrawl I have these days (thanks to computers making the art of writing a lost cause) and as a result? My handwriting is now atrocious!
I practiced riding a bike and as a late starter, at the age of eight I could, I practiced driving a car and by the age of 19 (again a late starter), I could.
I don’t like practicing things I don’t want to do (like riding bikes and cars) – but then again, who does?
What about practicing what you do love though? Are you able to find the time to do that? Depends on your situation I guess – maybe if you’re retired, kids have left home and you’re looking for ways to fill your days then yeah. But what if you’re busy? Unless we make what we love our profession (like I have with yoga), it’s difficult to practice what you love because you don’t often have time for it.
And even for those people who are fortunate enough to make a profession out of their hobby, how often do you think they practice for themselves?
I used to practice a lot more for myself before I was a teacher than I do now! Between teaching yoga, writing the classes, the blogs, wanting to make YouTube videos for my students (there’s a reason why that still hasn’t happened yet – time?), social media videos and images, and adding to my own learnings through books and journals – there’s little time to do my own practice. And in fact each practice I have ends up being prep or an idea for another class or theme!
Right now, at least five times a week, and I try to carve out time (30 mins to an hour a day if I can) for my own practice. But that’s not easy, not always achievable, and really hard to switch off the teacher in me and become the student.
But I’m not complaining because being a yoga teacher is the best job in the world, and I do it because I love it. I love my practice and I love to practice – in whatever form that comes in.
And of course, ironically yoga teaches us to practice – it teaches us the value and understanding of what it means to practice – specifically through the harder poses like the splits or Hamunasana.
Bit of spiritual background for you: The pose is named after Hanuman – the monkey god – his story is one of devotion, courage and triumph of good over evil. He took part in Rama’s war against the evil Ravan, and after defeating him, Rama and Sita were crowned King and Queen. Hanuman was offered a reward for his help in the great battle, and because of this selfless service, courage and perseverance, he is regarded as the ‘perfect’ symbol of loyalty and selflessness.
The physical representation of Hanumanasana (or the splits) can be linked to Hanuman’s ability to leap across huge distances, and because of this and how difficult the pose is, the spiritual benefits we get from practicing the splits is that of devotion – to the practice of yoga. For which we need loyalty, courage, dedication and selflessness (just like Hanuman) – so wave goodbye to your ego – it has no place here!
Through yoga we can re-train our minds to ignore the always on and the instant gratification, and understand not only what it means to practice, but also what REAL gratification is once we eventually accomplish what we set out to do.
Life doesn’t come easy – which is why it’s always good to think of everything as a practice run – work at it and in time it will get easier.