Ideally when we do yoga we want to be light and effortless. The idea is that we practice diligently with consistency and reach a state where our practice is our second nature.
Or at least this is how I understand my teacher's words when he says: "you want your practice to be effortless”.”Uhum, in which universe can you touch your chin to your shin effortlessly???” asks Veronika sweating on the mat.
But let’s jump into understanding effort or more like the “lack of effort” not only from the yogic perspective, but from a perspective everyone can relate to.
I want to write this article because I had this observation about people. People who want to achieve things, but think they need to do nothing. People who say: “sure she can do splits, she’s a yoga instructor” or “yes he is born to be fit, look at his 12 packs” or “of course she can sing\dance\act\play music, her parents are artist” or “yeah his dad left him his business 10 years ago, now he is the owner, he did nothing to be successful at all” and so on.
Now this is not simply a rant about those who rather just bitch about other people’s skills and successes enviously. This is an inspirational article about how you can be good at anything you want too.
I am an actress. I train and hopefully will work in an environment of talented people. But is talent enough to take you far on the road of success? Do you not have to put any effort into your practice to further develop your skills?
Being effortlessly good at something doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard. It means you have already done the work so now you are enjoying the fruits of that work. And like all fruits, the fruits of your hard work will start to rot and decay unless you learn how to preserve it and\or grow other fruits in the garden. If you never improve yourself, no matter how talented you are, you are going to be the person with a set of skills that essentially will get boring. If you don’t keep on practicing yoga, you will get stiff and all the comfort will disappear from your body and you’ll go back to square one when you can not even do a pushup anymore because all you did in the past years is drink beer and eat pizza.
Now I’m not saying you do, it’s an extreme example. But what I’d wish people realise is that things don’t come for free. You will not be a good singer unless you train your voice - no matter your parents are also artists, unless they buy you fame but that’s a different story. You can not run your dad’s business unless you learn how to do it so you don’t lead it to bankruptcy. You can not have wonderful relationships unless you take care of them, make sacrifices along the way and be there when people need you. Yes, even when you are about to put your favourite movie on and the phone rings “Can you come over? I really need you right now.”
I’m not saying that your life should be constant struggles and hard work. Of course not, are you crazy? There is so much fun in life we should enjoy and be happy about!
What I learnt from my yoga practice is that things get easier. Much easier, especially when you are consistent. There are poses I used to really struggle with and now I do them with ease. (There are poses I still struggle with of course and I fluctuate between the two states even with the same pose. That is learning that things are only constant when it comes to being constantly changing.) But sure one thing is true:
You can not achieve the state of effortlessness without effort in the first place.
Which is awesome. Think about how challenging it will be to read that book that is written in a way you barely understand. Now think about the book you will read after that in a similar language. And then think about the third book. Jump to the tenth book. Do you think it will be easier by then? Of course! And you will even have discussions about it with smart-ass people. And you’ll feel awesome because now you can use all the fancy words you had no clue existed in the dictionary before (literally my life after I read a book and learn a few more words).
So yes, you will be effortless in whatever you set your mind to. You will be good at whatever you work on, even if right now it’s a pain in the ass. You will do that crazy backbend or you will speak a second (third, fourth) language fluently. It all depends on what you put your effort into today.
I wake up early X times a week and decide to practice the Ashtanga primary series. I’m not stretchy because I have a superhuman body. (X is undefined so I don’ta sounds like a bragging arse) Although that probably exists and there is someone like that, my body is the least exciting when it comes to superhuman abilities. I go the old-fashioned boring way and put effort into it. Now if someone sees me out of context they say “wow, that’s awesome”, while my self-reflection is “Lord, there is so much more to learn I can not even see the end of the road”. They didn’t see the beginning of my journey nor my goals for the future - like those before/after photos on Instagram, they’re great because they show that people don’t get magically good at things. They put effort into getting better looking, more bendy, before loser guy\girl and after looser guy\girl, or here are my PBJ cooking skills and here are my A la Carte menu cooking skills. You got the point.
It sure is easier to get good at things you like. Because all of a sudden putting the effort into that thing seems like a fun investment and you’d want to do it over and over again. You’ll enjoy the challenges and the rewards will be exciting and satisfying no matter how small or how slow they come.
I used to be obsessed with playing the piano as a child. I set there all weekend and played the same song until my fingers were able to move so fast I could keep up with the rhythm. I finished 6 years of material in 4 years and played a nice Tchaikovsky piece at age 14. Make me play the piano now and I will ridicule myself because I haven’t played like that in ages. But I can do a shoulder stand with my arms not touching the floor for minutes!
Somewhere in the past 13 years I shifted my focus from playing the piano obsessively to dance, acting, yoga, filming, learning to live vegan and not die of malnutrition, learning to speak English fluently plus a bunch of other skills.
The moral of the story is: there is no point looking at other people assuming you can not get there if you want - given you put the effort into it. Ideally there is no point looking at other people and comparing yourself, you are unique in your own way, good at things naturally (talent) that you may want to improve further and become amazeballs at (talent paired with success). But you know what I mean, you can get there and you will if you do it. But action has to take place and effort has to be put into it.
In my eyes career, love life, friendships, yoga, any skills or really anything that we do is not an exception from this rule.
If C is your goal and you have the equation of A+B=C, either A or B has to be effort.
C=advanced yoga practice
Practicing yoga with effort will lead me to have a more advanced (and inevitably more effortless beginner) practice. Simple as that.
(Sidenote: This article is not about how smart I am in maths. I did not shift that on the top of my priority list after stopped playing the piano religiously, OK?)
There can’t be “lack of effort” in the equation of success, there is only the outcome of effort. But you tell me! Maybe I am wrong, maybe there are people that pop out of their mum running a marathon speaking 10 languages. Who knows, there is so much I haven’t seen yet.