Here is my take on why it’s best to avoid setting any kind of expectations for a time frame to “master” or “achieve” any specific yoga pose. Expectations take you out of the moment. They take you away from celebrating small victories that mark milestones of progress, and they misplace your focus on things that are not there.
The whole idea of mastering a pose ultimately serves as a distraction from what the most beneficial part of learning that pose is – the discipline of patience, learning how to listen to your breath, and cultivating self-awareness. When I look back at where I was mentally when I began practicing yoga, it’s clear that the changes that took place internally while I was focusing on learning to perform certain poses were exponentially more beneficial (both in the short and long term) than the performance of the poses themselves.
Of course, the physical aspect of yoga poses is important. It’s important to understand what your body is capable of doing, and it’s important to understand what type of movement can help strengthen areas that might be naturally weaker, in order for the body to function as it’s meant to. Each posture has its own beautiful and unique benefits and effects, and these too are fundamental to understanding how to get where you want to go with your practice.
Like most people probably do, when I began practicing, I placed my sense of accomplishment entirely on what shapes my body was capable of bending into on any given day. It’s only years later that I can start to understand how warped this way of thinking is, and how much it reflected an inner state of basing my sense of self-worth on external (in this case physical) factors. That game is way too easy to play and a slippery slope, because every time one pose is “checked-off” there’s an infinite number of poses that haven’t been yet.
I’ve come to realize how important it is to be able to recognize the line where my practice can begin to interfere with my life adversely. This can take a few forms – one is a state of competitiveness with myself where I feel like progress needs to be daily and continuous, and if it’s not, something is wrong. Another is using yoga as a coping mechanism. I fully believe that on some level, yoga always serves as a way of dealing with the inevitable stress factors of daily life. And up to a certain degree, I also believe that it’s the healthiest, productive, and rewarding coping mechanism. However, I know from my experience that I have to be aware to not reach a level of deflection where yoga is the ONLY way that I’m dealing with whatever issues I’m experiencing at the moment. If you don’t physically feel like doing yoga one day, accept the truth that your body is communicating to you. Healthy mind, healthy body. Yoga is there for you – not the other way around.
This quote says it best:
"When we push for immediate results and instant healing, we never inhabit the important in-between phase, which is where much of the learning and growth actually happen."
Bo Forbes, Yoga for Emotional Balance
Stay the Course
Stay in the journey, assess your body, collect tools and information, acknowledge your fears, stay positive, and celebrate every small victory. Focus on strengthening your mental and physical awareness. And most importantly, enjoy!