"Practice and all is coming." This is one of my all time favorite quotes in yoga. The famous words of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Practice. A word spoken in present tense, an imperative, a command. A doing of an action.
Not "having finished practicing, all will have come".
The journey of yoga, the act of practicing–of continuous practice–is something I'm just coming to fully grasp. Learning to slow down, understanding that there isn't a destination, knowing I have time to do that pose–to get to that level (or never get that pose or never advance to that level).
...And that it's all okay. And that I do have time. And that there isn't a destination. And that if my body and mind need to slow down today, that I can go further another day. And that I don't have to feel guilty about any of it.
My realization of this really started to set in about six months ago. At that time I had a pretty hard-core daily practice, and suddenly an injury (a torn MCL) brought it almost to a halt. I tried to keep the same practice up, with the same intensity, and found that if I might not have been making the injury worse, I was definitely hindering it from healing.
So I slowed down. And started to get "yoga guilt". Then the injury still wasn't getting better so after some doctor visits I had to stay completely off of everything for a few weeks. And "yoga guilt" really set in.
I mean, I was doing a little gentle practice, plus pranayama, some meditation, even throwing in daily neti and nadi cleanings for good measure. Oh, but the guilt! It wouldn't leave me alone. "Why aren't you practicing jumping into titthibasana and pulling up to a handstand? You know this is what you were working on." "You only did 30 minutes today. You'd better get back on the mat for at least another hour."
Then, something started to take shape in my mind. As my body began to heal, I started to focus (both in my personal practice, and my teaching techniques) on more anatomical postures with full awareness of slow, mindful alignments. I began to go deeper in my mental yoga practice even as I was taking it a bit easier in my physical practice. I even took a few days off at a time from any physical practice just to try it out and see how I'd feel, what would feel different.
Now, I'm glad to be getting back into a routine again with a pretty much injury-free body. But I've noticed that I've come back to the mat with a new perspective on my favorite quote. That the word "practice" has no deadline, no destination.
...Just a journey of personal yoga practice. In whatever form that may be for me today. And guilt-free journey at that.