“How often do I need to come to class?” I was asked again yesterday. A woman called the studio looking for a Pilates class. I asked her about her current health and fitness level. And did my best to match her with the class that best suited her needs. I talked a little about studio etiquette and how much classes cost and then she asked: “How often do I need to attend?” To answer that question, I have to find out what her goals are. Most people coming to class are seeking to change something. If you are reading this, it is likely you are looking to change something: the size of your waist, your ability to handle stress, the pain you are feeling in your back or knees, or perhaps you are wanting to generally feel better all over and to increase your sense of wellbeing. Yoga and Pilates can help with all of that. But it can only help to the level of your commitment. If you want to see substantial change in your body, you need to practice regularly. Here is what I have observed in my clients and some stories clients have told me about the benefits of their practice.
The yoga precepts are prescriptions to manifest change and become our best selves. The third of the prescribed behaviors is Tapas: discipline or heat. Tapas is the drive we build in ourselves that brings us back to our mats. By naming Tapas as a Niyama, Pantajali acknowledge that it is not an easy path. Showing up on the mat day after day takes discipline. We have to give something up, time, physical resources, and our apparent sense of freedom. We have to commit.
There is an interesting feedback loop to the process. For, the more Tapas we generate, the easier it is to practice. It is easier to sustain a practice of three times/week than it is a practice of once/week. Tapas generates tapas. Commitment generates commitment. Practice becomes a habit, a positive addiction.
“What kind of change do you want to see?” I asked my phone caller yesterday. She said she wanted to look better. My reply, “If you really want to look better, then commit to coming to a class three times a week. Do a little Yoga, a little Pilates, mix in a dance class from time to time. You will see change.” Change will happen with a smaller commitment, but to really see the change, make a commitment. Write it down and remind yourself of it daily.
“What kind of change do you want to see?” “How willing are you to commit to practice?” “Can you cultivate discipline?” “Can you make your practice a prioritiy on your calendar?”
How did I find discipline? Well, I started in the once/week category trying to moderate pain. I had a back injury and I wanted to feel better. Pretty quickly, I discovered that if I attended class twice a week, I felt much better and the pain stayed away between classes. Pain relief is a great motivator and builder of discipline. I started enjoying my practice more, craving it. I observed that if I practiced daily, I didn’t just feel better, I felt great. Going to class everyday wasn’t possible for me at that point, so I started to build a personal practice. I used the prescribed practices in “Light on Yoga” (Iyengar) and “Yoga the Iyengar Way” (Silva and Mehta). I followed their directions, built my practice, and generated Tapas. The heat, the discipline, of practice became self sustaining.
With this process, I’ve changed my body and my life. I like living in this body. It brings me joy and pleasure. The discipline to practice is no longer a struggle. My practice is like my breath, an essential part of my day-to-day life.
|Frequency of Practice||Teacher’s Observations||Student’s Testimonials|
|Twice/month||My students start being more comfortable in their bodies. I see ease of movement, reduction of pain, and light in their eyes. I don’t often see significant body mass change with this level of practice.||“I just got back from the doctor and my blood pressure is down 20 points.” (after 5 months)|
|Once/week||These students really start feeling a difference. They know their bodies are changing as pain disappears and they become stronger and more flexible but the outward visual changes are small and slow.||“My back pain is going away.” (at 6 weeks)|
|Twice/week||These students quickly begin to look different. There is joy in their step. Their whole bodies begin to smile in response to their practice.||“I feel so much better and I’m starting to look better.” (at 1 month)|
|Three or more times/week||Transformation happens fast with this level of commitment. Not only do bodies feel better, they outright glow. People comment on how good they look and feel on a daily basis. They get that ‘yoga glow.’||“Wow! Look at me. I have a waist again. My back and shoulders don’t hurt any more. I want to do this everyday!” (after 2 months)|