The Yoga of Setting Goals
Setting goals is a topic we’re all too familiar with. When you combine this idea with your yoga practice, the idea starts to morph into something different.
Setting goals in life through yoga practice
The idea of setting or working toward a goal for some other aspect of life is pretty easy to grasp when you relate it to yoga. Yoga teaches us the ability to focus and to concentrate. In learning to hold our poses a little longer, we in turn learn to hold our concentration longer as well. As long as we’re holding that pose in a state of awareness, we are consciously focusing.
Start with the basics…and just keep going
Basic poses such as warrior (virabhadrasana), triangle (trikonasana) and side angle (parsvakonasana) are great poses to use when developing and refining your concentration and focus. The same concepts can be applied to moving slowly into a deeper, more-complex pose such as tortoise (kurmasana) or the half lotus twist (ardha padma pascimottanasana). The more we practice each pose, the more we are able to exercise the mind along with the body and refine our concentration and focus.
Setting goals with our physical yoga practice is quite different
As athletes, we like to set very specific goals. Maybe we want to run a six-minute mile or do 100 push-ups. When mastering yoga poses, we need a different approach. We don’t want to say we’re “going to be in full lotus (Padmasana) in two months.”
Lotus pose is actually one of the most difficult poses to master, not because it is terribly complex or difficult to remember how to do, but because most peoples’ hips are tight from other activities. Your hip rotation depends on a group of six different muscles that all counter each other to regulate the movement of the leg in the hip socket.
Not meeting the goal to meet the goal? How on Earth does that work?!?
Mastering lotus or other poses that require advanced movements that go way beyond the body’s typical range of motion means departing from the traditional idea of “pressing on” or “pushing yourself”. You need to go slower. You need to let your body catch up to your mind, and allow your body to tell your mind to be patient.
This is how we learn to “let go”
Repetition-daily practice of such poses, and being satisfied with slower progress in smaller increments is key. This idea involves much more than patience. Patience, while important, is only a small part of it. Let yourself go into the moment when you are getting into lotus and let your heart feel what your body is saying to you and to your mind.
Don’t worry about getting to the next step. Let yourself relax into the step that you are in. You’ll be better off mastering the half lotus first; when you are comfortable folding one leg and getting the mind connected to all those muscles in that hip, you’ll get to know the language your body speaks from the pose, and you’ll be motivated by the contentedness to move further and bring both legs into the pose.