The issue of “quality vs. quantity” regarding the Ashtanga practice is a thorny problem. I think that taking a backwards step may help.
As Westerners, we live in a culture that requires high performance. Day by day, we are used to be more and more productive and efficient, inevitably taking things to the limit. We have been taught that the more you work the more you get, implying that only huge investments of time and consistent efforts can guarantee a happy life. This concept is intended to rule every aspect of our life: there is no distinction between personal life and working environment, spiritual and practical sphere and so on. Our attitude is to be always on the ball (what about checking social media over and over again?), shifting attention outside of us.
When someone point things out, making us aware that caring for ourselves is deserved, rightful and essential, in the beginning we are astonished, then relieved and free, in the end.
The key point is to make room and learn how to distinguish the right and proper from the harmful. It’s not always simple, that’s why we need different points of view and specific tools to do the work.
Who can help in put things in order? Family, close friends or strangers as well. And teachers, I am sure. The aim of teaching, intended as passing down knowledge, is just to give tools through which people can develop critical sensibility, be aware of their personality, choose mindfully the most appropriate path: actually, be happy.
The yoga teaching makes no exception: teachers should be supportive, encouraging and not overcritical but above all they have to teach. To teach postures, in this specific case, pointing out that asana are tools and not goals (it should be clear enough that postures are tools to investigate the possibilities of the bodies and the patterns of the mind: the aim of practise would be neither to collect postures just to move towards the end of the series nor gathering misleading experience).
A learning process takes time and effort. The question is: how much? The answer could be: it depends, all that needs to happen is that they are both of high-quality. And I believe that to estimate the duration is deceptive and damaging. The important thing is to resist quitting and trust the process, especially when things get harder: day by day, little by little, we do the work the best way we can, never loosing track of ourselves. A teacher can help, but the last word belongs to us, to the practitioner.
When we call into question ourselves honestly, we are perfectly able to choose wisely. Thanks to the tools we are learning we discover our inner world, gathering and respecting those little nuances which make a person valuable and unique. In that sense practise makes perfect: becoming aware of our identity, beauty and preciousness. Happiness is consequential, as a more soft and gentle approach to life.
In the end, quality and quantity are the two sides of the same coin, they are not mutually exclusive or better/worse. From my own experience, the best thing is to find a balance in respect of our nature: yes I noticed, it’s quite a task! But don’t forget there are your Ashtanga people as well…
So, what about you? Have you find the balance, or it doesn’t makes any sense to you?
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