Yoga is Hard to do?
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu
Sometimes you may find yourself saying "yoga is hard to do".
But not for the reasons you think.
You probably think yoga is hard to do because you are inflexible. The poses are too difficult. You don’t have the strength or stamina. It’s the wrong time of day. Lessons are too hot, too fast, too slow….You started too late in life.
There are a hundred or more reasons why you think yoga is difficult.
But the real reason why yoga is hard is because of what you think.
Basically if you think yoga is hard. It will be.
Your mental programming is the biggest obstacle to your gaining results in yoga.
And the whole notion of getting results in the first place is a big obstacle to making your yoga practice easy. Drop this idea that you need results. Unless you were raised by aliens, your culture has led you to believe that when you start something you should get immediate or at least guaranteed results. And those results should be bigger, and better, and faster and more.
Take for example the reason you might say yoga is hard is because you are too old, started too late. “Yes”, you say “it’s hard because I didn’t start a yoga practice early enough”. Or you started yoga and then gave up. You hold the legend of Tiger Woods to be true, viral videos of a three year old putting, then he became one of the golf greats of the last 100 years. You believe he’s great because he started so young. Then you believe you need to start things young. But your mum didn’t take you to a baby yoga class, in fact you’re so old that baby yoga classes didn’t exist when you were an infant, so that’s it. You might as well give up now. Best not try.
This is a mindset. A belief. Yoga is hard because you are too old. Missed your chance. Didn’t start young enough. Stop it and drop it. Let go of this mindset and yoga will become easier.
Another way your bigger, better, faster and more thinking patterns make yoga hard is because you will be measuring your practice up against some idea of “results”.
You do it with the car you buy, the house you purchase, the business you run, the school you or your children attend, the job you take…all of it. You look for results that fall into a bigger, better, faster, more category. No matter how much you say you don’t want “success” because the whole of western society is geared, and marketed in this way you are programmed to look for it. You might not even realise how much you expect, demand and need results.
And even if you live in a tiny house, have changed your diet, gone vegan, started listening to vegetarian music, drive an electric car, or bike everywhere, and only wear and use eco-organic ethical produce look how the bigger, better, faster, more mindset still creeps into your thinking. You want the best electric car, you want the most ethical company to produce your flip flops, you need your cotton yoga pants to be 100% organic…
You don’t have to look far into the western yoga field to see where this has taken hold. The power yogas, the fast vinyasa yogas, the therapeutic, better for you yogas, all claiming to be bigger, better, faster and more…
What is the result when you come to your own yoga practice, when you attend your yoga class with the thought that your practice needs to be bigger, better, faster and more?
Yoga is hard, that’s the result.
And don’t get me wrong. I am as much a victim and perpetrator of this mindset as the next person. I used to teach Scaravelli inspired yoga. And I used to tell my students it was better for you, had a more holistic approach, it enabled me to teach people how to access their spine faster than any other approach…And now I’ve re-trained and I teach using the Kaiut method, guess what? I’m still telling students that I believe Kaiut is better for you, has a more holistic approach, enables me to teach people how to access their joints faster than any other approach…
Whatever I teach, I’m liable to use the bigger, better, faster more mindset to talk about it to you because that’s the language people use to convince other people that the things on offer are worthwhile.
Drop it and stop it, this belief that your practice has to do produce anything that is bigger, better or faster or more. Just notice what your practice does produce. Expect the unexpected. Be surprised and curious. Yoga is not hard when you are open to receive whatever gifts it may bring.
Another way that you have created this belief that yoga is hard is in the strong expectations you have of yourself.
Expect MORE of yourself on your yoga mat = yoga will be hard.
Imagine you started playing an instrument. An instrument you have never played before. Or maybe you did play but only for a year when you were 10 years old. You have a few lessons. You discover it is really hard to make a beautiful sound but you are determined to learn.
Notice your learning is not marred by any expectation of more. You would not expect to be playing a solo Violin concerto at the Albert Hall in London by next month. You know that eventually, if you put in 10,000 hours of practice (they say it takes to become a true master of any topic) , then you would feel a little more capable to put on a concert for your family.
So it confuses me when I meet people who try yoga and after a class, or a few classes, even half a year of yoga drop out. They say yoga is hard to do. But rather than question what exactly is hard about yoga, they have decided that they are not making “progress” they are not reaching their expectations, getting results and they have quit.
And nothing wrong with quitting. Please stop. Just don’t stop for an error in your thinking, because your body will love you if you keep going with your yoga practice, beyond the thought “it’s hard”.
Yoga is easy if you are present in each moment to your practice. You just keep meeting yourself where you are now. Not where you want to go. Not with any particular goal in mind. Dropping any agenda, any motive, any ambition other than being available to your own sweet self again and again.
There is great and immeasurable benefit to your practice that you might not even notice at first. But over time (remember those 10,000 hours) you will find yourself dropping into your practice, finding yourself on your mat in awe of this beautiful system of consciousness that gives you such breadth and depth.
And the other way in which you mind makes yoga hard to do is when you have a body image of yourself as inflexible
And read that statement again. I’m not saying it’s hard because you are inflexible, I’m saying yoga is hard to do when you see yourself as inflexible.
Whatever level of flexibility you have.
You start from where you are. And the hard part, the most difficult aspect, is you accepting where you are. But really, why should you be able to touch your toes? How ridiculous for you to be able to put your arms up to the air above your head and straighten you elbows. If you have not done those things for decades. Then you will not have the ability. Stop thinking you should!
The violin is hard to do for those who have never played before. Yoga is hard to do for those who have never been on a mat before.
If you are inflexible, stiff, have lots of hip or shoulder or other joint restrictions, then it is exactly why you might start yoga in the first place.
But then you discover more about those restrictions. You find the colour, the shape, the texture, the taste, the density and the flow in and out of your own body. You stop relating to them in the same way. You cease brushstroking your whole body with a huge generalization “I’m inflexible” and you start to see little places, areas of more tightness, areas of freedom, and how they change and play.
Want to know what’s really inflexible? It is your mind that has decided that you will never get rid of any body restrictions – yes, there is your mental inflexiblity. If you conclude that your body restrictions are there forever, then you will be right, and yes yoga will be hard to do.
Yoga is easy to do, when you have a good yoga practice, a yoga practice like Kaiut Yoga. In Kaiut you will deliberately be shown you where you are stuck. It will show you your inflexiblity in your mind as much as your body.
If you are a student who sees yourself as fit and active, maybe you walk everyday, maybe you swim, sail or play tennis. You may have many other things that you do to stay healthy. You then come to a kaiut class that shows a joint restriction that you never saw before. That’s exactly the moment when you might give up and say “this is too hard”.
Allow yourself to turn it around. Instead of thinking this is hard, say this is easy! Look how easily you have found a held pain and restriction! You body has probably been compensating for this restriction in otherways. And now you can open up to it, start moving towards it, freeing it.
Don’t give up because you are inflexible. I implore you to stay with it.
I can speak from my own experience, I’ve been through layers and layers of restrictions especially in my hips and it has not been comfortable. It has been a good kind of hard. And not too hard…I’ve been working at staying with the sensations, modifying when it’s challenging, remembering to relax around all sensations and not giving up. To keep returning to my mat over and over again.
My teacher Franciso Kaiut says the only hard thing about yoga is getting to your mat. Getting to your class.
My practice has sometimes ceased. I’ve taken breaks. I’ve stopped from time to time. And if those pauses have happened because I’ve thought “it’s too hard” I’ve picked my yoga practice up again and continued on – through the perceived inflexibility, through the belief that if I find that something is hard, then I need to stop it.
I have chosen rather than explore and examine what exactly do I mean by hard?
Sometimes painful? Yes, do I agree to have this be part of my practice? Yes.
Some discomfort? Yes, do I agree to have this be part of my practice? Yes.
Strong reactions ? Yes, do I agree to have this be part of my practice? Yes.
Do they make yoga hard to do? No, unless I’m pushing or forcing beyond myself.
I say yes to feel some pain, experience some discomfort and see all the strong reactions my body shows me through my practice, then every time I come to my mat it is easy, because that’s what I’ve agreed.
My yoga is to find for myself that perfect balance, that union of these restrictions, blocks, tightness, reactions in the body to a sense of freedom, to touch them, not steamroll into them. This keeps me returning to my practice as the benefits start to show themselves more clearly.
And I’ve come to the understanding that Yoga is not hard, being inflexible in the body is not hard.
The inflexiblity of the mind is really difficult. Very hard. Inflexiblity of the mind will stop me from practicing. It will prevent me from approaching my mat easily. It will create distractions and distortions about yoga that just are not true.
I invite you to see how any inflexibility is released first of all through your thinking.
And then your body will follow, millimeter by millimeter, day in, week in, over months and years…
That is the gift and the beauty of yoga for you, it is easy.
Find me on Facebook: @kathywhiteyoga