In just a few weeks, New Year’s will be upon us with a wave of ‘challenges’ being tossed at us left, right and center including for our yoga practices. As wikipedia defines, “A challenge is a general term referring to things that are imbued with a sense of difficulty and victory”. The concept of ‘difficulty’ doesn’t resonate much of a positive tone, does it? When achieving some state of victory, then what? Now that I can put my foot suddenly behind my head, am I suddenly that much more closer to enlightenment? Rather than integrating this concept of overcoming ‘difficulty’, would we not be better served to approach our practice with a sense of opportunity instead?
This may be a subjective perspective on my part, but the idea of challenge implies facing resistance and limitations. What happens internally when we do not achieve expectations or goals? I find the whole concept of challenging oneself in yoga counterintuitive to the true intention of practice – establishing harmonious balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Immediately, upon setting a challenge, you are constantly expecting, comparing, and assessing rather than just being. This, for me, becomes a barrier in itself for the practice to flourish and readily harbours sublayers of negativity. This tends to amplify the Ego-drive practice of comparing – where are we deriving these supposed limitations from in the first place? – from comparing ourselves to others!
One can argue that setting challenges can drive motivation and consistency. True. However, motivation and consistency are greatly spurred by positive energy. The process of viewing the practice as an opportunity instead can generate similar motivation while facilitating positive intentions and not putting a spotlight on ‘limitations’. Opportunity is defined as ‘a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something’. Rather than viewing our practice with self-created barriers, we can become excited at how our sadhana is opening us to possibilities.
Ways in which we can view the opportunities in yoga:
*opportunity to expand and create space physically and mentally
*opportunity to give ourselves permission and be unique within the flows
*opportunity for sub-layers of questions and truths to emerge opening the eyes to what is fundamentally relevant
*opportunity to breath in freedom as we let go of expectations and judgments
Why place extra energy on perceived limitations and fears into our lives and especially into our practice? The time on the mat is better served to be saturated in joyful intentions. I am all for engaging the body with conditioning and following principles of progressive overload. But setting nurturing undertones with these practices is what is key. I would rather stimulate my sense of humility while exploring the possibilities of body, mind and soul versus fuel the Ego that salivates when challenges don’t meet expectations. If you find a ‘challenge’ motivates you, I encourage you to breathe some extra awareness behind that ‘motivation’. What are the obvious and not-so obvious reasons/intentions behind the motivation? Does a challenge truly make you feel unique, give you a sense of empowerment/a sense of real choice in life, and ultimately make you feel great about yourself?