Six keys to success in yoga

January 28th, 2020

We love the feeling of succeeding in anything. Achieving our goals, being our best or just going beyond where we think we can, is what stirs our psyche and our human growth. There’s a natural part of us that finds satisfaction in success.

But success in yoga is different.

And if we don’t distinguish yogic success, from our everyday take on success, then we run the risk of yoga becoming just another thing that we idealise or get hooked into, and then just as quickly become disinterested or disillusioned with.

Yoga has been around for 5000 years, as far as we know from archaeological remains. Through centuries of war and cultural upheaval in India right up to our modern day, it has reliably stood the test of time. Ancient yogis were more than just practitioners or teachers. They were highly-evolved scientists, psychologists and meditators who closely developed, practised, studied and mapped the energetic effects of various mindsets and techniques on the human body, human mind and our consciousness within it – and developed a complete system and pathway for others to follow.

Yoga – more than just physical practice intended for our health and fitness – is the foundation for enlightenment.

It is about awakening the subtle, dormant energies within us, to enable us to grow beyond our egoic identity and to reach our full psycho-spiritual, human potential. Put another way, yoga is about freedom. It enables us to live in true happiness and harmony within ourselves, in our family, in our society and in the world.

So even when we become flexible enough to touch our toes, stable enough to do a headstand or able to sit still to meditate, whilst they’re all great accomplishments, there’s still a depth that yoga offers you to explore!

Success in yoga therefore comes from understanding how to adjust our approach and our attitude for the long-term, so that Yoga can truly go to work for us and generate the freedom that’s possible from the inside-out. Like venturing on any sincere journey, having a reliable map makes a big difference.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika written in the 15th century is one of the oldest texts that offers us timeless wisdom and guidance on what to do and what not to do, for success in yoga. Translated from Sanskrit, verse 16 says: “Enthusiasm, perseverance, discrimination, unshakeable faith, courage, avoiding the company of common people, are the six causes (keys) which bring success in Yoga”.

You may have been surprised to learn that success in Yoga involves being mindful about how we approach ourselves, and our life – not just what we ‘do’ on the yoga mat. Let’s briefly explore each one – and don’t get put off by the wording of the last point mentioned.

1. Enthusiasm

Having a positive attitude matters. What do you enjoy about yoga? What does it allow or do for you? Remind yourself of the positive benefits you experience. Find ways to refresh your inspiration and interest to practice (or teach, or both). Find a wise, uplifting teacher(s) who inspires and encourages you always to do your best.

2. Perseverance

Be patient and be prepared to motivate yourself when you feel like giving-up. If you find yourself pushing, back-off before you get injured or burn-out. Practice yoga as regularly as you can so that the benefits stay with you and have the chance to deepen and transform you. If you practice just once per week, although this is better than nothing, be realistic that the practice will have minimum benefit. Perseverance ensures we don’t stray from the path.

3. Discrimination

Know what supports you and what doesn’t support you in being your best, and learn to say a firm, yet gentle ‘no’ when you need to. This applies to diet, daily routines and relationships. Having healthy personal boundaries is essential so that we don’t become overwhelmed by our life ‘taking up’ all of our energy so that we have nothing left to give to ourselves – or time for Yoga practice..

4. Unshakeable faith

Yoga works, it is a life-changing system, if we give it the chance! But its really normal to doubt yourself. Have faith in yourself to grow, let-go and change. Have faith in your teachers who can see you, as well as your potential. Trust in the fact that you are drawn to the practice, even if you don’t always understand what’s happening or think its working. Having unshakeable faith reminds us that there’s something beyond the limited thoughts and opinions we hold on to.

5. Courage

True courage is not about being a hero, but the opposite. According to studies on wholeheartedness by Brene Brown: “Courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength”. Be deeply honest with yourself and vulnerable with your loved ones. Have the courage to tackle the difficulties you face in all aspects of your life, as well as the hard conversations. Sometimes just admitting your own fear and vulnerability can be a great first step.

6. Keeping good company

The conscious energy we stir through our bodies, minds and hearts in yoga is precious, and easily drained by people who are less conscious. Making time for quiet self-reflection and integration outside of our practice or classes is an essential key to success. Being in the regular company of others who practice yoga really helps.

Avoiding the company of anyone who drains our energy or does not support our life choices, is also important. This may involve limiting time with family or cultivating new, more like-minded friendships.

This sums-up success in Yoga – notice that its more about being and becoming – about making wise choices, simplicity and conserving our energy, than about making physical progress towards some idealised state. While we might want the magic forumla that gives us quick results, as a wise teacher once said to me: “In Yoga, the tortoise always wins the race.”

May this serve you to enjoy success in yoga, wherever you may be on the journey.