Why I Don't Mind Sucking At Ashtanga Yoga

Is trying new things exciting? Daunting? Exhilarating? Scary? All of these?

I recently started a new practice. I've been a hatha/vinyasa/power/let-your-joy-shine-through yogi for almost 10 years now. I love vinyasa, feeling like a dancing warrior with each cycle of breath. But recently, for the sake of adventure as well as to expand my yogic experience, I've begun Ashtanga mysore practice.

Ashtanga appealed to me because of the strictness of the practice. I am not a rules girl, and I never have been. After my first time at mysore, I announced to a friend, "I think I'm an Ashtanga delinquent!" Granted, I'd never taken an Ashtanga class before, but I had no idea which transitions went where or when to step with foot back and had to constantly fight the urge to cartwheel my hands down into a standing split turned handstand vinyasa. 

While many of the second and third series poses come easily to me, the primary series has been a MASSIVE challenge. I must be a very annoying little yogi as I laugh through much of the practice! It isn't that I don't take it seriously; I just laugh when I get excited, when I'm uncomfortable, and when I'm nervous. Today I touched my hands together for the first time in Marichyasana B, and I giggled audibly. I struggled wiggling into Kurmasana, and I started to chuckle. My teacher was giving me an assist in a super deep hip opener, and I couldn't control my nervous, practically hysterical laughter. I apologized after practice explaining that I laugh when I'm both elated and terrified.

So why keep at it? Why am I not discouraged yet? I totally suck at  primary but feel like a floating, flying princess in vinyasa. Why should I try?

If we achieve 100% of what we set out to do, then we aren't really challenging ourselves. If we never fail at anything, we probably aren't reaching anywhere near full potential.

In order to be the best of ourselves, we need to be striving for the practically impossible some of the time. This is what the primary series feels like for me: practically impossible. Maybe in a year or so, I'll get through it flawlessly. But maybe I won't, and that's ok. Each time I give it a shot and do better than the last, I feel like I've succeeded at something. Yoga teaches us to find balance. Part of that balance is setting high but realistic standards of what we can achieve and who we can be.

Some of my aspirations are non-negotiable, but when goals become too far-reaching or unachievable, all we need to do is reassess our strategy.

What is the reason behind this goal? What's the WHY that motivates us toward the goal? Can we still achieve the same outcome without actually reaching the finish line?

I started primary because I want to challenge myself. Physically, mentally, energetically, I want to work harder. Ashtanga forces me to do this because I'm so unfamiliar with it. I'm practicing primary series because I want to improve flexibility in my shoulders and hips, as well as increase stamina. So in reality, each time I do this practice, I am achieving my goal. 

Of course, the ultimate trophy would be eventually completing primary smoothly, succinctly and gracefully. But frankly, that might not happen and every single time I step on my mat, I feel like I am on the podium and have already won.

Goals are not necessarily the be-all, end-all. They can be the process, or merely the starting block to the next big challenge.

What are the reasons and motivations behind your biggest challenges? Can you alter the route, but still get to the same checkpoint?


Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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