Practice has been on my mind a lot this year. The good news is you don’t have to wreck your body or your psyche to get good at something. The bad news is, you still have to practice. You have to show up regularly and actually do the work and it will take a long time.
Ever since I read Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, I’ve had the following quote posted on my computer:
Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good, it's the thing you do that makes you good.
Seems pretty obvious, but it’s good to have that regular reminder. The story in Outliers is that the people who excel at their respective fields have put in 10,000 hours of time that sets them aside from everyone else. Regardless of whether or not that exact number is the thing, it takes a pretty significant investment of time to get good at something.
Taking a look at this in terms of yoga, Yoga Sutras 1.13-14 say,
Practice is the steadfast effort to still these fluctuations*. Long uninterrupted practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations. (BKS Iyengar’s translation).
*fluctuations: aka what I like to call “mindjunk”
Anatomically speaking, I just finished an enlightening webinar session with Tom Myers of Anatomy Trains. He emphasized that the way to transform your fascia, and as a result, your whole body, is through, gentle, persistent effort. It takes 6-24 months for fascia to re-form into new shapes, which is longer than muscle muscle takes. You have to slow down so that fascia has a chance to catch up with your muscles if you’re doing a lot of hardcore training.
And then there’s my gem to add to the lot:
You can’t cheat at practice.
Why? Because if you’re cheating, you’re actually, you know ... not practicing. I’m not saying this because I’m super awesome at practice myself, in fact, I’ve discovered through reading the above sources, and through examining my own practice through journaling, that yeah, I totally try to “cheat” and it just does not work.
Things that are not practice: watching YouTube videos, shopping for costuming, talking smack about other dancers, reading blogs, listening to a talk or guided meditation... while surfing the internet.
Things that are practice: going to class regularly, getting on the mat and asanating without distractions, actually practicing dance by drilling and concentrated effort, lighting a candle or two and sitting for at least ten minutes.
The stuff on the things that are not practice things are great! That stuff is fun and relaxing, and even productive or educational sometimes. It is a great way to supplement your practice, but it is not practice. Figure out whatever is stopping you from actually putting in the time and, you know, practice.
Show up. Do your thing. Congratulate yourself. Do it again tomorrow.