99% Practice and 1% Theory
The first time I heard this well-known quote from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, I thought it referred solely to the asana practice. Maybe the father of modern day Ashtanga yoga was referring only to the asana practice or maybe not. I don’t know all facts about when he said it or in what context, but I believe it has a meaning beyond the practice of asana and that it can be applied to almost everything.
To learn a pose, you can read all the instructions you like, watch all the videos you want, study it anatomically, and analyze and dissect it. But until you practice the pose daily while maintaining a steady breath and a calm mind, you really don’t know much about it. I guess that is what Guruji was referring to when he said 99% practice and 1% theory.
Our perspective changes as we grow. After several years of Ashtanga practice and some reading of yoga texts, I now understand this phrase to mean no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. Knowledge is limited, and in the end, it's only information. What we do with that knowledge, how it shapes our beliefs and behavior - that is practice. And that is what’s important.
You may have studied music all your school age years and you may have been very good at it. But if you haven’t played an instrument in the past 10 years, can you still call yourself a musician?
I studied Computer Engineering, but only worked one year in my field; that was over fifteen years ago. Can I really call myself a computer engineer? I may have the knowledge -quite outdated by now- but no practice.
Take the phrase “be kind" for example. We see this phrase every day; everyone reminds us to be kind. We tell our children to be kind to others. We even judge people by how kind they are - I know I do. Being kind is treating others with respect, as you would like to be treated, and using your manners. It sometimes involves going out of your way. The 1% theory here is knowing how to be kind, but unfortunately just knowing doesn't make you a kind person. You actually have to act this way. That’s the 99% practice.
Get on your mat and practice. The practice is more important than all the theory. It will teach you what you need to learn, whether it's a pose or how to be compassionate. It will transform you. Knowledge is important, but you also gain knowledge through experience.
As I continue to learn and practice, this quote may take on a whole new meaning in years to come.
Lots of love,