Bikram Yoga: Improvement – What makes you a Lifer

“If you see no improvement, you get bored.” – Something one of the teachers was saying to a student while in the change room the other day.  She was implying that boredom leads to a person giving up the practice and not coming back anymore and therefore,  seeing improvement in your practice and in the rest of your life, will keep you coming back and doing yoga for the rest of your life – a lifer.

That sentence got me thinking about  my own practice and checking in with myself to find out whether or not I was getting bored.

Bored isn’t ever the word I would use for how I feel during practice however, it’s not like I’ve been seeing a lot of improvement in my practice either.  So I had to question myself… was I bored and I just didn’t know it?  Then one day, I’d realise I was bored and I’d just stop going?

If you think about it, it is the exact same postures over and over and over and over again.  When you think about it that way, the question “How could anyone do this same thing over and over for years and NOT get bored?” Surely everyone would have stopped by now?

Enter: Variety, The Spice of Life!

Variety comes in the form of teachers, studios and all the crazy spontaneous things you do outside of class and yes, I would definitely agree that seeing improvement keeps you motivated to keep pushing, keep trying and to keep turning up.  It also adds just that little bit of spice to your otherwise bland practice.  “WHOA did you see how high I kicked today?!”  is pretty much enough to get me to come back the next day to see if I can do it again.

At the beginning, these types of exciting, eye opening, delighted-facial-expression type moments happen frequently.  I remember on my first day, I spent 45 mins of the standing series lying down (that’s pretty much the whole thing).  Each day, I’d try to remain standing for more and more of the standing series.  I think it took me 2 months to do my first class ever where I didn’t sit down at all but boy was I proud of myself that day.

But as time progresses, so do your postures and those “Phoar!” moments become fewer and far between.  Kicking that high doesn’t excite you anymore because you’ve been doing it every time for the last month (or longer).

You hit a plateau.  Soon ALL your postures look the same for months on end and no matter how much tweaking you do, there seems to be zero improvement (because millimeter differences are too small to see).  It’s like you hit your ceiling and I have to admit there were many times I’d looked at my own practice and said, “Well, if this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life, at least it’s better than where I started.”  It’s almost as if I’d resigned to staying there, at that level and going no further.  “I’ve obviously hit my limit.”

NB:  I was like this a LOT during the time where I was experiencing a lot of leg pain and my practice even started regressing.

But, as Bob Proctor said (he says a lot of stuff I like), “Whatever it took to get you there isn’t going to be enough to keep you there.”

He was right.  Whatever I was doing to get me to a particular level in my practice, wasn’t enough, my practice was regressing quickly.  If your hamstring hurts and you take it easy, the next day, it’s even shorter!!

“Spirit is always looking for improvement, always looking for expansion.” Another thing I learned from Bob et al.

Regression was definitely not expansion and each day I regressed, I felt worse in mind as well as in body.  So in an effort to at least get back to and maintain where I had gotten to before the leg pain, I started looking for ways to help my leg/hip and I improved, enough for me to see that I’ve made progress and going to classes felt good again.

So back to the point, “If you see no improvement, you get bored.”

I agree with the underlying concept, improvement does keep a person motivated and continuing to practice but then you have to ask, “Why did I continue to practice even when I saw no improvement?  Why didn’t I get bored?”

The answer I think, is not the improvement (although it helps a lot) but my end goal.

I think what stops a person from coming back is that they don’t see how what they’re doing is linked to their end goal OR their end goal is very close to their starting point, so they accomplish their goal quickly and move on.

For example, if the end goal is “I want to do yoga so I can be stress free”.  Then, every time you enter that room you feel hot, bothered, stressed because you feel dizzy, nauseous and the teacher is “yelling” at you to PUSH and PUSH and PUSH!!!… then the link -between the yoga and the stress-free isn’t made and the person does a Cartman, “Screw you guys… I’m going home!”

Example 2, if the end goal is “I want to lose weight”, well most people lose all the weight in the first 3 months!  After that, since they’ve already accomplished their goal, why would they bother coming back?  You won’t see these people again unless they’ve gained the weight back, want to lose it again and aren’t on some fad diet instead.

Improvement is definitely key to continuing on your journey.  All those moments you recognise improvement are the moments you recognise the milestones in your journey, how far you are along to accomplishing your goal, how far away you are from where you started.  Acknowledging improvement is what makes the journey fun.

But what makes you a lifer and continuing to practice whether or not you see improvement?  What makes you keep coming back even if you believe you’ve reached your self-made ceiling?  It has to be your end goal.

I can’t speak for all lifers but for me, my end goal is “I want to feel flexible, strong, vibrant and energetic, focused and clear in body and mind, every day, for as much as what is possible, for the rest of my life.”

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