Deepen your practice!
Wait, what does that even mean, “deepen your practice”?
It sounds like a vague notion. And yet, we say it all the time like we know what we’re talking about. Like we know what this deepening will look like and what it will yield.
How come no one ever spells it out? If we did, would it look something like this?
- Learn asana (yoga postures/shapes)
- Learn to sit and do nothing
- Ta da! Enlightenment
Even if we could sum up the journey of a yoga practice in these three steps, we don’t because the journey inside is complex and unique. The “practice” that leads YOU to yoga won’t look like mine or the next person’s. The journey isn’t linear. Moreover, for most of us today, it doesn’t feel like it’s happening in three steps or stages.
But maybe we can think of the above not as steps, but as big, sweeping categories. Categories inside of which many of us do figure out what it means to practice our yoga.
Let’s start with “Learn Asana”
Asana means “seat” but in a round about way can also refer to the strength and ease within your posture. And not just your posture in sitting or standing, but in all that you do.
What do you need to know to learn –and I do mean learn— asana?
- How your body works
- How your body fits within the shapes of yoga and how these shapes can be adapted to fit you or abandoned to fit your needs
- How to put these shapes and forms to use
That sounds neat and kinda linear, right? But there’s one little detail to keep in mind: you’re always changing.
The study of you and of how your body works is neverending. The study of asana, because it is a relationship of you to a shape, is also neverending.
How do you get to know something that is always changing? How can you learn something that isn’t fixed?
Nuance vs novelty
Keep at it. Observe the nuance in the changes rather than the novelty of the change.
Out of the nuances, you can build a big picture understanding of yourself and your responses to changes in your environment and your body.
The idea of focusing on nuance over novelty when learning something comes from psychologist Angela Duckworth and her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverence. Duckworth studies “studies grit and self-control, two attributes that are distinct from IQ and yet powerfully predict success and well-being.” Part of grit seems to be using “deliberate practice” to master a passion — deliberate to get you into the nuance of the thing and through the pull of novelty.
Yoga is a deliberate practice.
It doesn’t have to be, but if you make it one, like any passion you persevere to master, yoga will return to you peace and ease and joy ten fold. Or at the very least, it will give you a richer, deeper, more forgiving understanding of yourself.
If you love something, and you want it to support your life, dig deep, grit through the moments of lull, and learn everything you can.
Continue your yoga education
How do you learn everything you can? Just by bearing down and doing it?
Yeeessss, and not really.
You don’t need to dive in all by yourself! Set yourself up with support to do the deliberate practice, a structured practice that has an objective (even if it’s very broad) and asks you to learn something specific in order to transform the quality and content of your practice.
I love being a yoga teacher because deliberate practice comes built into it! And I have a deep passion for learning more. It’s why I love teaching functional anatomy to new yoga teachers to help them go deeper into their new craft through tools that concern the study of all of us.
It’s also why I love most of all to teach the first level of our yoga teacher training: it’s all about deepening your individual practice (through first level teaching)! That means it’s all about figuring out what “deliberate practice” in yoga looks like for you.
It’s never the same for any two of us. Join us and discover your practice.
Read Esther’s bio or catch up with her on instagram @esthermpalmer.