Ashtanga Blog

Yoga is not a quick fix

Do you ever wonder why your yoga practice doesn't seem to yield the results you expect? In a world of instant gratification, we have turned yoga into another quick fix. But true transformation takes time, effort, and a willingness to embrace discomfort.

Tania Kemou in Kapotasana Ashtanga pose in Serifos, Greece

“Why do I not progress even though I practice regularly? Why am I still stiff after all these years of practice? Why can I not stop my mind from thinking and wandering, why can I not sit still?”

These are  some of the questions I often hear from students on the brink of frustration. But where does this come from? Do we practice yoga to make our life better or have we turned it to yet another reason to beat ourselves up?

Yoga is a multi million industry. No matter where you look there is someone wanting to sell you something yoga related. And as it is often done in marketing, they overpromise.

Classes, workshops, courses promise to make you fit and bendy in no time.

Teacher trainings only asking for 200 hours of your time and a few thousand dollars to make you a yoga teacher in (surprise!) just one month. Mat and legging manufacturers compete to win your attention, promising to take your practice to the next level.

Meditation apps promise you the end of anxiety and sleepless nights.

Yoga teachers pretend to be your therapist or life coach and make you believe that an hour of asana every day will open the gates to enlightenment.

We have turned yoga into yet another tool of instant gratification, the kind that our culture thrives on glorifying. Not only do we want it to fix the entirety of our problems, we also want it to be easy.

Very few talk about the hard work. Because hard work, discomfort, continuous effort and commitment don’t sell.

It is innate human nature to avoid challenge and seek relief. We are hardwired to always look for the easy way to avoid pain, tears and failure. It is unnatural to seek challenge. But the only true relief will come through challenge and discipline. Discipline can be defined as teaching ourselves to do what’s unnatural, until it becomes not only natural but second nature.

Yoga is an ancient ascetic practice that teaches exactly this. It forces us to work through unnatural poses and accept unwanted states of mind. It gradually stretches not only our body but also our mind to accept and process calmly things that it used to avoid. With time, yoga practice makes us less reactive and more responsive.

It is not a lie that yoga can change lives for the better. It can, it changed mine and many peoples’ I know. It just didn’t happen exactly overnight. And most of the times, people whose lives changed thanks to yoga didn’t have an agenda in the first place. They just trusted the process and kept going even when visible progress was nowhere to be seen.

The cliché wants us yogis to be drawn to yoga because we are naturally bendy and calm. This could not be further away from the truth. People who come and stick to yoga are “normal” people with body aches, health issues and often enough too much mess to deal with.

I didn’t stick to yoga because it was naturally easy for me. I did it because I realised that I needed a sort of discipline of my own choosing to save myself from my demons. I needed the hard work and the discomfort, I needed to sign up for a lifetime of facing myself and my mess otherwise I would go completely crazy.

The problem with the way yoga is marketed today is that it is being presented as a quick fix, as a tool instead of the lifelong journey that it really is.

No one tells you that you are going to struggle and fall and fail many times before you finally “get” that pose.

No one tells you that you are going to have to make choices and let go of habits, patterns and even people who are not aligned with who you want to be.

No one tells you that the mind cannot be stopped from thinking, no matter how many silent retreats you might have been to.

Then why practice, one could ask and quite legitimately.

We practice because falling and standing up again makes us stronger every time.

We practice because saying yes to everything and everyone led us ashtray and we finally see the value in choosing what and who really matters.

We practice because it helps us deal with the the chaos in our head. The thoughts are still there, but we can choose to not believe every single thing they say.

We practice to find peace not instead of the noise but despite it.

Yoga might not be the immediate solution to all our problems but it can help in cultivating patience, devotion and faith and building character. Yoga, when practiced over a long time will not only help with our physical health but also show us all the areas that we need to work on.

But it is up to us to show up and do the work. No amount of advice, books, classes or trainings can do this for us. These are just tools and they are great to have but at the end of the day it is us against that little voice that tells us to quit because it’s not easy and it doesn’t work.

Yoga invites us to take responsibility and choose freedom over dependency, discomfort over complacency, choosing it again and again until it become natural.

It is going to hurt and it is going to be difficult. But this is how character is built. This is how practice matures and how we learn to navigate through life’s difficulties with grace. Not because we have a natural talent for it but because we refuse to quit and we trust the process.

Let’s treat this ancient practice with the respect it deserves. Let’s let it change us slowly instead of requesting immediate results. Let’s choose, for once, the hard way instead of the easy one and see where it gets us.