Not too long ago one of my students asked me how long it would take for him to get “good” at yoga. It made me smile because it wasn’t the first time I’d heard this before. My first thought was, what defines “good”? Even if you’ve been practicing for 20 years, the second you think you’re good at yoga or that you’ve somehow become better than anyone else in the class, you’ve missed the point.
Yoga is called a practice for a reason. It’s something that is constantly evolving and the flow and poses will reflect whatever is going on in your life at the present moment. Some days you balance better than others, some days you’re stronger, and some days it feels like the first time on your mat. The second thing I thought of was a fable from a book called Buddhism: Plain and Simple. The story follows the path of a buddha and his disciple. After many days of meditation, the student asks his master, “Oh wise one, how much longer until I reach enlightenment?” and the buddha says, “only one more year…just be patient.” A year later, the disciple comes back to his master and asks the same question. The buddha says, “Only five more years my son.” The disciple looks perplexed. “But last year you said I only had one more year to go.” And so the story goes on and on. The student is far too focused on the end result intead of appreciating his progress in the moment. If we constantly chase a desired result, or a pose, or if we put our happiness on some future event, all we’ll end up with is the continuous chasing. In fact, once we get to the place where our perceived happiness is, we’ll soon place our happiness on some other future event or goal. So to answer the question…being good at yoga requires presense of mind, not the achievement of postures.