"99% practice and 1% theory" - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of ashtanga yoga)
I started practicing yoga in college. The college gym offered ashtanga yoga classes led by a somewhat snarky older man with a long beard and amazing hamstrings. He would publicly chastise you if you left your cell phone on or didn't move your shoes to the edges of the room. His strict passion for the art elicited giggles from groups of sorority girls who were just there to hang out at the gym (and then swiftly kicked out of the class) but for the rest of us, he engraved a respect for an exercise that is also an art.
Ever since that class, I've tried many different styles of yoga and I always come back to the ashtanga style. I don't connect with the other styles in the same way. The word "ashtanga" literally translates to "eight-limbed" and those eight limbs are basically the pillars of the discipline: moral codes, study, posture, breath, sense, concentration, meditation, absorption into the universal. The first four are considered external. The latter, internal.
Ashtanga yoga is a system of synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures or positions. One breath for each movement.
There is a lot of technique (just like any art or practice) and a lot to learn if you want to. During classes, my favorite instructors share insights into the theory and history of the practice. Repeated over and over again is a quote by the founder of the practice that goes like this: "Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory."
99% practice and 1% theory. You can learn the theory until you have ever bit of it memorized. You can know the technical terms, the sanskrit, the chants, the positions and all of their various alterations. You can tell people the history of it all, how to do arm inversions, and how much you love it. But...
To become a master you've got to practice. Knowing the theory is wonderful, and necessary. Your experience with the art cannot be complete without it. But without practice you are almost nothing.
When watching his students trying a particularly harder pose and failing, one of the gurus teaching a class repeated this quote over and over like a chant to us. 99% Practice 1% Theory. 99% Practice 1% Theory. Practice every day. Try it again and again. Do it until you don't have to think about it anymore, until it just come from inside of you. Until your body and your brain and your soul all align and you can do it well and with grace.
It is such a beautiful lesson that is so easily translated to many areas of my life. I view photography in the same light. 99% Practice 1% Theory. Which is why when I'm stuck creatively I don't sit around and look at other photographer's websites. I don't pin a bunch of photography photos to Pinterest, and I don't just study the how or the why. I take my camera and I go shoot. Because that's that 99%.
PS. MEGAN (who makes the most BEAUTIFUL kaleidoscope style artwork that you must go look at here) is the winner of the Marie Claire Women in Business gift bag! Please everyone go take a look at the gorgeous artwork she creates and sells. I find it so fitting that after choosing to write about yoga today, Megan was selected as the winner because I feel like her art is such a beautiful compliment to yoga discussions. Thank you so much to everyone who entered. Megan, send me an email with your address so I can send you the goods! :)
original yoga image from fuckyeahashtanga