A challenge in the physical practice is that the physical practice of yoga also has this aspect that it can easily feed the ego. Asana’s can get us easily attached to the form of the poses, wanting to go deeper, wanting to get stronger, more advanced. My “luck” is that my body just gives up on me when I practice too strongly, so I’m forced to go back to the more subtle aspects of yoga. Observing all the craving, rejection and ignorance that is going on in the story of me and my life, accepting myself as I am, remembering to relax and smell the flowers 🙂
The challenge for me was, and is, continuity of my practice. The next challenge is ensuring I have a practice that is well rounded, covering all aspects and various techniques.
An aspect of my practice which challenges me is the question of asana and how this relates to the philosophy of yoga. I understand that exercise is good for the body and mind, but in this day and age it seems yoga is becoming a choreographed form of exercise. As I spend time on my mat moving through various postures it is challenging sometimes to stay present as I’m looking to move into some different variation or working to a more advanced posture. This is the mind moving into the future and not witnessing the present. I did not set out on the yogic path to become a fitness or dance instructor and sometimes it seems to me that that’s the way it is going. I don’t want to put people off yoga if they can’t practice the various asana. So I bring myself back to the practice, the physical practice for the sheer delight of being. I hope this comes across in my teaching. No matter your physical ability or your age, that ‘something else’ can be experienced whether you are tying yourself up in knots or simply sitting feeling your breath.
I guess doing mediation is different than doing yoga…I don’t think I ever found it challenging. Well, maybe once, during a week of Zen meditation where we meditated for hours. My legs and butt definitely must have thought of that as a challenge 🙂
The most challenging poses for me are definitely the arm balances, at first I thought that my arms weren’t long enough to lift me up but the more I worked on the arm balances the more I started to realize that it is really a team effort, a team of different actions and body parts working at the same time. I started making my arms longer by using blocks, up until now I still enjoy practicing some of my arm balances with my hands on blocks, or under the feet for bakasana. Once I understood the necessary actions to achieve the lift I started moving away from the blocks, most of the times I still use the blocks the first time and then I repeat the pose without the blocks, to feel the difference in my body. But this is still a work in progress.
A challenge in my practice has been to adjust my practice and fine tune it to what I need, not so much to what my routine is or what I feel it should be. For a few months, I was low on energy and it really benefited me to take the pace of my practice down, incorporate more Pranayama and really allow myself to have a meditation and Savasana. Although a routine is great and to a certain degree essential to a steady home practice, there should always be some flexibility and the openness to adjust. It was a great practice for me to be remembered of that.
I used to love backbends but they became more challenging in my 40s. My first reaction was to do only the basic ones but this was definitely not the right answer! So I then started to “work towards backbends” more systematically – and also more gently – by preparing the body. For me, pranayama makes a big difference. I noticed that if I practice holding the breath after an exhale, then it is easier to do backbends. I guess it helps overcome the fear somehow associated with backbends! Besides pranayama, I would also warm up with some chest openers– sometimes just lying down on a rolled blanket for a while – before practicing some backbends. Little by little, I started to enjoy backbends again. I think it is important for all of us to find out why we find some poses challenging. It might be fear, weakness or technique. Once we are aware of the problem, we can work at them, very gently, taking our time.
Since my first trip to India, many years ago, I’ve been finding a challenge the emphasis that we seem to put on asana. I’ve spent time questioning the meaning behind a set sequence of physical postures, the never ending purification system that seems not to have a real end apart from keeping the body strong and healthy… After many years of asana practiced this way I didn’t think it was much fun and it didn’t feel it was doing much to purify the ego. Then my teacher showed me that asana are a wonderful and joyful tool to a higher connection with all the aspects of creation. It can be a lovely moving meditation and a way to a calm and focused mind. Social media is bursting with examples of what I find challenging in my yoga practice, such as the celebration of the body beautiful with images of something that I feel should be profound and private, shared in the right environment and with the right frame of mind. The body changes and ages and sure we should celebrate that as well.
What’s the challenge aspect in your practice? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.