You Make the Magic: Yoga’s Power is in the Practice
Some yoga poses look well-nigh impossible when you’re a beginner. With consistent practice over time, however, they become possible. This transition from impossible to possible is experienced in your body and manifested in your mind. That is the practice and the magic of yoga.
What Pictures Can’t Show
If you’ve ever scrolled through your social media feeds looking at yoga photos, you’ve probably had at least a few moments of awe, astonishment, and maybe even disbelief. The gravity-defying, bendy postures that show up well in photos often seem like they require some magical yoga sauce that you and I will probably never get a taste of.
But what looks like secret sauce is actually the practice itself. Floaty transitions, press-ups, and splits don’t happen by themselves. Some people are naturally more flexible, some people have a natural propensity to build muscle strength but no one gets to postural proficiency by magic. When we see someone excel physically, it’s necessarily by dint of the consistent hard work that they are putting in.
A photo doesn’t show us the basic poses, the building blocks, the drills, the attempts, the failures. Images of advanced postures may act as inspiration when you start doing yoga, but by the time you reach those handstand and arm balance goals, you’re a different person, physically and mentally. An internal transformation has taken place. You thought you were working on your hamstrings and your core but actually you’ve been training your mind toward growth, positivity, and acceptance. You’ve realised that the magic is the process, not the result.
The Journey is the Destination
Photos also can’t show the effect that regular practice, often years’ worth, has on your mind as well as your body. A ‘before and after’ sequence may illustrate a physical transformation, but it can never portray the softening of hardened mindsets, the changing of attitudes and outlooks, the improvements in well-being and self-regulation that this practice brings about.
While you’re putting in time on your mat, the real magic is happening upstairs, where intractable viewpoints are shifting, connections are being forged, and radical self-acceptance is blossoming. These changes can often only be appreciated in retrospect when you’ve progressed to the point where you can back away far enough to say, look how far I’ve come. Transformations that look like magic from the outside feel an awful lot like work when you’re in the middle of them.
This is not to say that yoga is all work and no play until one day you wake up to your accumulated reward. Along the way, you get to experience the simple pure joy of shutting off your mind and moving your body because magic happens just about every time you get on your mat.
When have you ever regretted taking the time to practice? When have you ever left a yoga session feeling worse than before you started? Each moment of effort, of attention, of challenge that makes up your practice is beneficial in its own right and also add up to something bigger: that ineffable moment when the impossible becomes possible.
Ashtanga founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois famously said: “Practice and all is coming.” The practice is the journey, it’s the process, it’s the time and the effort. The practice is something everyone can do. The practice begins the first time you step onto a yoga mat and continues indefinitely. The practice is the means and the ends. The practice is the secret sauce. The practice is the magic.