Y'all know I use MyYoga.com (now part of GaiamTV). It's an online yoga platform that I recommend for a wide variety of online yoga classes (of all levels and durations) taught by numerous teachers of numerous schools (though not so much Iyengar). It's one of the ways I motivate myself to engage on days when I'm either very tired or feeling uncreative. (More on My Yoga - with which I am in no way affliliated btw, except as a paying client, next post...)
One of the things I've realized lately (and trust me, it's taken 25 years to decide to stop hitting my head against the wall when it comes to this) is that you don't need to do yoga for 2 hours (or 90 minutes or even 60 minutes) every time you step on your mat. My nature predisposes me to feel that 30 minutes is the practical minimum, at least for myself - but I've always recommended to newbies, who struggle to develop a practice, that the three-pose rule* is where it's at. FWIW, there are those who will tell you that any amount of yoga is a practice.
I'm sure it doesn't surprise you to know that I'm pedantic and goal-driven. I'm a freakin' civil servant, after all. I came by the Iyengar method honestly, while searching for fitness in my teens, because it's utterly akin to my personality: driving, specific, practical and intensely technical. Partly I'm this way because peeps be who they are, and all that. Partly, I'm this way because I've spent my entire life managing clinical anxiety and obsessive compulsiveness and the imposition of order is the way I come to terms with the vast amount of sensory input to which I am excessively sensitive.
Here's the thing, spending 2 hours per session, doing yoga 3 times a week, doesn't work for me right now. (There's an argument to be made that it doesn't work optimally, physically, for lots of people. But let's not dwell on them - this is about me.) Right now, I feel best on every level when I do 30-45 minutes of yoga 5 times a week. That's about half the amount that my old-school, orderly self feels is "doing real yoga". These days I also often feel better when someone else is telling me what to do because it's easy for me to ruminate on my (in)abilities - on my level of asana "consciousness" - when I'm directing myself.
I've been doing the same poses for decades. I've come up against the same physical (to say nothing of mental) sensations and challenges thousands and thousands of times. And nearly every time I've come up against them - last year or two notwithstanding - I've fought them. I've fought my perceived inabilities, my competitive (with myself) strain, my urge for improvement (which never became my joy of refinement). Certainly, I've experienced tremendous pleasure in yoga or, trust me, I wouldn't do it. But when one actions a pose it's always the same: The only barrier one ever encounters is oneself.
Teachers spend a lot of time telling students that, if they want to change themselves, they need to take the journey in the practice. I'm here to tell you, if you want to change your practice (how you live within it, how you benefit from it), you also have to change yourself.
And that's why I'm doing it all differently. My urge for perfection (which isn't abstract perfectionism, btw, it's an actual drive for order in the physical form) is painful. It has actually contributed to my experience of physical pain. Yin yoga recently helped me to take the edge off my form-centred, Iyengar-sensibility. MELT and other forms of myofascial bodywork have reinforced for me - outside of the spectrum of yoga - that it's really not about how it looks while you're doing it but how it feels when you're done.
On that rabbit-holey topic - let me clarify my perspective: The impact of yoga is never about how it looks and always about how it feels (in the context of physically safe asana). That's not to say that beautifully executed poses (in that Yoga Journal fashion) aren't a concurrent aim for many yogis. In fact, for most long-standing practitioners I've come across, I sense it's equally important. Not that anyone talks about this.
I do yoga, in part, because it brings me health, self-awareness and vibrancy. I also do it because it's a way for me to express my physical ability and my perceived beauty in that ability. Is that yoga? No way. Is it egotism? Sort of. Is it harmful? Well, when it gets out of hand it is.
I'm ageing, as are we all, and I'm moving through a physically challenging phase of life at the moment. How long this phase will last is unknown. How it will end is unknown. Arguably the purview of yoga is in age because, while I cannot satisfy my ego through my practice at this moment, I should never have been trying to do so in the first place. Nothing like a period to end a sentence.
At any rate, that's my deep thought for Wednesday. Fellow yogis (or runners or rowers or cross-fitters), what's your take on this? Do you express your ego in your activity? (Think twice before you answer.) And if you're a yoga-doer with a long-standing practice, how has it changed as you've gone from one life phase to the next? Let's talk!
*The three pose rule is just that: Get on your mat and do 3 poses in the style of practice you'd optimally like to accomplish (i.e. active, supported or pose-family focused). If at the end of doing those 3 poses, you're still feeling utterly disinterested, just put that mat away and move on with your day. If, however, you find even a glimmer of engagement having done those first 3 poses, do 3 more. If you're still there after 6 poses, chances are, you're in it for a full practice (however you define that).