“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu.
Today we’re going to reveal the one thing you need to know to tap into the hidden power of yoga. Use this, and you supercharge yoga’s ability to make your life better in 30 days. We’ll also explore the common obstacles in doing it and how to use them to your advantage.
Here it is: Repetition. Repetition unleashes the power of yoga and of life.
Repetition sounds so easy and seems so obvious that we tend to discount it. Yet in yoga, it has a special place and is given a special word—abhyasa. It means repeated practice over a long period of time.
Lao Tzu’s quote at the top speaks to the humbleness of starting. Every great project, undertaking or relationship began with the very first step. Abhyasa, though, says the most critical step is the second one, and then the third, and then the fourth…
There is always another step.
Everyone who has begun something intuitively knows this. You start out gangbusters. Day one goes well. Day two, swish. Day three, no problem. But slowly and surely the energy and excitement wane, and we start to skip days until we just abandon it and go back to where things were before. Or worse, we feel a little demoralized and vow to either do better next time or never do it again.
But have hope because your idea was probably sound; only the focus needs to be adjusted.
Obstacle 1: Setting a Goal or Intention
If alarm bells just went off because of this obstacle, have faith because I’m not saying you don’t need goals.
Setting goals and having an intention are essential. But they can also get in your way because they are not the work. Goals point the direction you are aiming, but by themselves, they get you no closer to it.
To paraphrase one of the most famous passages in the yogic text The Bhagavad Gita, “Focus on the act, instead of the results.” 2:47.
Goals are about the future. But the bridge to the future is built with the work of today. If we focus on doing the work each, and every day, then pretty soon we will arrive in a changed future.
Use goals to orient yourself, but then do the work daily to actually move towards it.
Obstacles 2: Why
This obstacle has many names and flavors but boils down to your purpose, reason or motivation for doing something. It is the “why.”
Why you do that voodoo, you do so well matters.
There’s a wonderful Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why,” on why “why” makes a difference. I’m a fan.
Why is the compelling reason for our actions. And we have some powerful reasons that cut to the bone.
- We don’t want to be alone anymore.
- We are done being fearful and playing small.
- We want to have more love and joy.
Being clear on why you are doing what you are doing tethers you to something meaningful. And that helps a lot when things get difficult.
But inertia is strong.
And as powerful as our reasons and motivations are when push comes to shove we often get pushed and shoved.
Obstacles 3: Preparation
Bradley Cooper, who directed and starred in “A Star is Born,” had to learn to sing because he was playing a famous singer. That’s difficult to do if you cannot sing. As he told NPR’s Terry Gross, “I knew nothing about singing—nothing.”
Not only that but his character sings in front of big audiences. To do this part of the film, Cooper got 4 minutes of stage time at Glastonbury Music Festival in front of 80,000 people.
So to recap. Cooper, doesn’t sing. Is portraying a singer. And is going to sing in front of a live audience of 80,000 people.
He approached it in a smart way—by preparing well. He hired a skilled singing teacher and then worked his butt off. His teacher later remarked that he never had a student show up at 7 a.m. to start singing lessons.
Yet when the time came to sing live, Bradley said, “There’s no way I’m going to be able to do this.” Instead, he thought he could just lip sync and put the song in later.
But Steve Morrow, the sound mixer on the film and trusted voice advisor, said to Bradley that he knew he could sing the song because “I’ve heard you do it 100 times.”
You can see for yourself how Bradley did if you watch the movie. Just know that’s him actually singing.
Preparation is a necessity but becomes an obstacle when it gives you the sheen of doing something without actually doing anything. It becomes a justifiable distraction.
We may never feel prepared enough for whatever it is we want to do, but an amazing thing happens when you do it anyway—you grow. And it gets a little easier.
That’s a great segue to why repetition is spoken of so highly in yoga—it becomes who you are.
You become what you repeatedly do. Your repetition becomes who you are.
And the act of doing something over and over changes you. You become a kind person. A person who is able to do difficult things. A yoga practitioner. It happens when you aren’t paying attention to the result but are absorbed in the daily practice.
So instead of focusing on the goal or the reason, make it about showing up and doing the work. However it goes, good or bad, exhilarating or not, it doesn’t matter so much because you’ll be back tomorrow. You don’t have to wait for inspiration to strike you, yet when practice repeatedly you’ll find yourself repeatedly inspired.
And once you have honed your ability to repeat things then you can take it into any realm you desire, You can learn a new language, make new friends or enjoy the fragrance of life.
Repetition builds heat, like rubbing two sticks together vigorously. Soon you have fire, and you can do some incredible things with fire.
A caution though. Fire is a result. It’s tempting to think you’re finished because you have a result. But you know the fire needs tending. There’s still repetition that’s needed, or all that work goes away, and you have to start again.
In this way, repetition is a lifestyle.
The fruits, or benefits, of the yoga practice, are many. Yoga can help you live better. It can help you be happier, more connected and more loving. And that’s on top of the physical benefits like having a stronger, more sustainable body and clearer, calmer mind.
The benefits are like the seeds of pyrophytic plants that need fire to germinate. Stop the fire, and you stop the development of life.
One more quote to close by Shakespeare.
“Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.”
The practice of yoga, like the conversing with friends, becomes what is joyful. It is the time and place where we remind ourselves of the taste of living.
To get started:
- Start with the first step.
- Set a goal—like 30 days
- Connect with why this matters to you.
- Prepare—get your clothes and your mat together
- Then Just do it—again and again.
You’ll see some serious heat in that timeframe. Smile. Then continue on.