Ashtanga Blog

Dedication beats talent

Why persistence, dedicated effort and trust in yourself will take you further than mere talent.

Tania Kemou practicing Kapotasana Ashtanga pose in Serifos, Greece

When I first started practicing Ashtanga Yoga about a decade ago, all odds were against me.

I was not a dancer nor a gymnast.

I was working at a desk 10 hours per day and had a pretty unhealthy lifestyle that included partying a little too much.

I was extremely stiff, especially in my upper back and shoulders. I remember I was having nightmares about backbending. When I tried wheel for the first time, my elbows would not go past 90 degrees. My shoulders felt stiff like a board.

A massage therapist once told me that I had the spine of a 60 year old. I was not even 30 yet. I was shocked but it was true. I had a double scoliosis that made both my lower back and my neck hurt all the time.

I had to deal not only with my genetics (everyone in my family has slouched shoulders) but also the sedentary lifestyle and stress that came with being a corporate lawyer. Opening up felt like an impossible task.

It would have been great if flexibility was the only issue. But I was not strong either. I had a lot of muscle from going to the gym, but no inner strength.

During the first 2 years of daily practice I had to wear wristbands because chaturanga was too hard on my wrists.

I used to feel embarrassed and hopeless because I couldn’t see or feel any progress. Or it was too slow for my impatient and anxious mind.

So no, I had absolutely no talent for Ashtanga.

I didn’t stick around because it fed my ego or because I was good at it. Quite the contrary, it made me feel horrible about myself and my 60 year old spine more than once.

You know why I stayed?

I stayed because despite the struggle and pain, the feeling I had after practice was exhilarating to the point that nothing else mattered anymore.

Nothing I had ever tried before made me feel like this.

It was not a runner’s high or a dopamine spike. It was much deeper than this. It was a ray of light making me believe that maybe, change was possible.

This time it was not about being the best, as it always had been until then. It was not about performing, pleasing and showing off. It was about changing who I was.

It turned out change was possible. And it didn’t take that long.

Slowly after the second year of practice, my body started responding to it. I got rid of the wristbands and my spine started feeling younger.

Around that time I realised that I was not so sore in the mornings anymore.

My lower back didn’t hurt so much and my neck muscles got stronger.

Now, 10 years later, the scoliosis is barely visible anymore.

When I started seeing the first small changes it gave me so much faith. I realised that not only I could beat my genes but I could create transformation in other areas of my life where it was needed.

Around that time I found the courage to quit a job and lifestyle that didn’t serve me anymore and allow myself to walk on a different path.

Ashtanga Yoga had made me strong not just physically but also mentally.

It gave me the kind of confidence that comes from going against what’s meant and intended for you, reinventing yourself and living your life on your own terms.

All the above had very little to do with talent and all to do with determination, faith and hard work.

I decided to share my story to show you that talent is overrated.

You don’t have to be born for it.

Whatever it is that you want to change in you, you can do it. It is going to be hard work and it is going to take time.

But does anything worth having come easy?

Yoga is a tool for transformation. It has the power to show you qualities, capacities and strengths you didn’t know you had. It will also show you your weaknesses, what holds you back and what you need to work on.

What you see won’t always be pretty. You might even think that yoga is not working. Your mind will try to trick you into quitting more than once.

But trust me, it is working. It is changing you every single day, slowly guiding you towards where you need to be.

Never give up, trust the process and trust yourself.