"Think of this practice in terms of months and years. This is what I used to tell people. Some people listen, some people not, but then I realized no it's not even months and years it's like first decade, second decade."
- Jeff Lichty
If you practice Ashtanga then you want to see this interview.
I don't know about you but when I first started practicing I thought doing it 6 days a week was crazy. That didn't last long.
My Type A personality soon wanted to practice 7 days a week. You know......"Get better". Get more postures. Just like Jeff says in this interview "High performance and acquisition that's what the West brings to this". That's exactly what I tried to do in the beginning. I can tell you first hand that it doesn't work.
So what approach does work?
Jeff and Harmony Lichty, both teachers and long term practitioners, share what they have found works best in maintaining a life long practice. Watch the video or read the transcript below to learn more........
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Harmony: He is just so passionate about this practice and he loves it so much, and he loves new students. He loves beginners. He gives so much to them. He spends so much time with them. It was just really touching. It was so inspiring for me as a practitioner as a teacher to just be like "Yes, this is what it's about." It's about the people who don't come in from some other place thinking they know everything. It's about the people who are just there and want to learn. At the end of teaching, for like six hours already he would sit with three students left in that room and just sit there and work with them until they were done.
Jeff: That's pretty amazing. That's hard work.
Harmony: He's been in there for six hours teaching and he would sit on that stage with three students left and make sure that they were getting it.
Jeff: "Think of this practice in terms of months and years." This is what I used to tell people. Some people listen, some people not, but then I realized no it's not even months and years it's like first decade, second decade. You can do a lot in 10 years. I think what happens and what trips people up is they think "I want to do all this in a year." Do you know what I mean? We overestimate what we're going to do in a year and we underestimate what we are going to do in 10 years? So we go really, really hard we push and we break ourselves, and then Ashtanga, gets this really bad wrap, because I blew up my knees. I blew up my shoulder. I did this. I blew up my back it's like whatever because we are pushing forward and we are not creating a patient long term approach to the practice.
Harmony: Yes and I like that about the practice, that it's daily. Just do your best and then try again tomorrow and then try again tomorrow. Some days it's going to be really easy and other days it might be hard and that's okay. It doesn't have to be your best most radical practice every single day. It can just be whatever it is that day, and it doesn't mean if you can't do one posture one day that tomorrow you're not going to be able to do it too. Tomorrow you might just be able to do it just fine. I think sometimes people get really caught up on this one practice or the form of the practice as opposed to just the overall...
Jeff: What's the 10 year effect?
Harmony: Yes, the overall effect versus...yes, the 10 year effect versus the one day effect.
Jeff: High performance and acquisition that's what the west brings to this, and so as westerners we often bring that to our practice so you can get here and you can be performing for Sharath the whole time.
Harmony: We are so caught up with "I got to do this" and "how am I going to do this?," "How am I going to reach enlightenment?" You can't reach enlightenment, just relax. Let it happen.
Jeff: It is kind of like the eight limbs, if you think of the first four limbs as being...
Harmony: Yes, there's things you can do to set up the conditions so that this will arise within you.
Harmony: But focusing on forcing it to arise within you isn't going to help you.
Jeff: No that will be an obstacle as well of course.
Harmony: You also have to have that desire or at least some insight into that's the reason as to why you're doing it.
Harmony: I think having Jediah probably changed the way I practice a lot, also I think when I first started practicing there were conditions that I felt I needed to have in order to practice, and I think after having Jediah I realized I don't need those conditions I can just practice. Sure there are optimum conditions that might give you a better feeling when you're practicing or you might feel able to...you don't do more, go deeper, but you don't necessarily need those conditions. I learnt that I can practice at any time of the day and I can practice anywhere and it doesn't need to be a two hour thing.
"Now I practice because I actually need it. I actually experience such a huge difference in myself, in my mental health, in my well-being every day." - Harmony Lichty
I think my idea of practice became more expansive, and also the inner determination and strength I have for my practice also grew. Before when I was practicing it was more about...it had a different focus. It was like a big spiritual thing I was doing like my focus was really in it. Which is great, it is good. It wasn't really a bad focus, but it was like "This is my practice and it's so spiritual and I need it. It has to be at this time." Now I practice because I actually need it. I actually experience such a huge difference in myself, in my mental health, in my well-being every day. In a way you take it for granted, its effects, and then when your life is really busy and you have a lot more responsibilities and not as much time to practice you don't take for granted the effects, because you feel the effects immediately. I still obviously practice in a very traditional manner, the traditional sequence and all that. Maybe some days I can only do half primary. Some days maybe it's only sun salutations. I learnt to be okay with that and just value whatever amount of practice I'm able to do.
Jeff: If you do enough it's enough, it's okay. But enough is necessary. This is the part that we sometimes mess up I think. For four years, I've done daddy yoga that's what I call it. It doesn't resemble the full practice that we do here, and so every time I get back here it's like rebuilding the practice. I asked Sharath and he said "You know you do what you can." He didn't say do all the primary, do all the second, do all the third. He said, "do what you can."
He didn't say do this posture and this posture. Let me do like three eights [SP] and then I want to do this and I want to do that. He's like "No. Do what you can, but do it." He's not saying, try. He's saying do it. It's like what Yoda said. There's do and do not. There is no try. Did you do it or not? Do what you can. Do what you can.
Learn more about Jeff and Harmony at their website Ashtanga Yoga Victoria
Jeff and Harmony Lichty, founders and primary teachers at AYVic. They are certified & authorized at the highest level, directly from the K.Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, South India.
While spending many years studying in India with the late Sri Pattabhi Jois, his grandson Sri R. Sharath Jois, they also traveled internationally and taught Ashtanga Yoga to students from all over the world.