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Practice makes one Perfect

Prac­tice makes one per­fect is an age old say­ing. How rel­e­vant it is even today. In fact, it is all the more rel­e­vant today because giv­en the numer­ous options and “dis­trac­tions” it has become so dif­fi­cult to set aside time for reg­u­lar prac­tice. With­out ded­i­cat­ed time and space, most peo­ple feel frus­trat­ed that they have got­ten no where. This is applic­a­ble in all aspects of life includ­ing diet regimes, yog­ic prac­tices, pro­fes­sion­al goals, edu­ca­tion etc. When we resume some­thing we loved to do, after a long gap, we feel so hap­py and elat­ed. We all know intu­itive­ly that to progress sig­nif­i­cant­ly, con­sis­tent prac­tice is impor­tant.

What does Cognitive Neuroscience say about this?

When we do some­thing for the first time, there is sig­nif­i­cant cog­ni­tive load involved. With repeat­ed prac­tice, many things become auto­mat­ic with a reduced cog­ni­tive load. The brain does not have to process so much when you repeat some­thing for a long time. The first time you start­ed dri­ving, it seemed so com­plex right?. Brake, accel­er­a­tor, rear-view, GPS ‑all at the same time. Was­n’t it com­pli­cat­ed? Once you mas­tered dri­ving, it seems to effort­less now. You can now enjoy the music while dri­ving. This is what repeat­ed prac­tice does. Neu­ro­science says that when we take up some­thing new, it is like mak­ing a new deci­sion. A lot of para­me­ters need to be con­sid­ered. Mak­ing the same deci­sions repeat­ed­ly (in the case of prac­tice), the neur­al cir­cuits get trained. Neur­al path­ways are formed when we get a new skill and these deep­en with rep­e­ti­tion until it becomes nat­ur­al for us. Such is the ben­e­fit of repeat­ed prac­tice!

What does Yoga Say?

Yog­ic sci­ences offer great insights into habit for­ma­tion, prac­tice and per­fec­tion. The samad­hi pada of the Yoga­su­tra of Patan­jali pre­cise­ly cap­tures the mean­ing and sig­nif­i­cance of prac­tice.

In San­skrit and Hin­di, prac­tice is referred to as abhyasa

तत्र स्थितौ यत्नोऽभ्यासः

tatra sthi­tau yatno-‘bhyāsaḥ

While talk­ing about blocking/controlling the vrit­tis through repeat­ed prac­tice, Mahar­ishi Patan­jali says to be com­plete­ly fixed in the effort is abhyasa. It means that one is com­plete­ly ded­i­cat­ed to that prac­tice. What starts with effort becomes effort­less with repeat­ed prac­tice.

Mahar­ishi Patan­jali fur­ther says:

स तु दीर्घकाल नैरन्तर्य सत्कारा असेवितो दृढभूमिः

sa tu dīrghakāla nairan­tarya satkāra-ādara-āse­vi­to dr̥ḍhabhūmiḥ

It becomes firm­ly estab­lished when done with rev­er­ence for a long time with­out inter­rup­tion. Here Mahar­ishi Patan­jali talks about three aspects of abhyasa. First he talks of “long dura­tion”. Any new knowl­edge or skill becomes inte­grat­ed only when prac­ticed for a pro­longed peri­od of time. You might have heard of the 10,000 hour rule for per­fect­ing any­thing (though many have defied this rule). Sec­ond­ly, he talks about con­sis­ten­cy and unin­ter­rupt­ed prac­tice. Indi­an tra­di­tion pays a lot of impor­tance to niya­ma and nithya kar­ma which have to be done every­day with­out inter­rup­tion. While in our fast paced world, we might find it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine doing some­thing every­day with­out a break, but don’t brush our teeth every­day? With­out con­ti­nu­ity, expe­dit­ing progress can be dif­fi­cult. Third­ly, he talks about rev­er­ence. Why is rev­er­ence giv­en so much impor­tance? In order to gain con­vic­tion, it is impor­tant that we have faith and respect the sys­tem and peo­ple who designed with sys­tem. With respect for the teacher, gain­ing knowl­edge becomes dif­fi­cult and with­out respect for the sys­tem, engag­ing with it becomes impos­si­ble. Mahar­ishi Patan­jali has giv­en great impor­tance to con­sis­tent and unin­ter­rupt­ed prac­tice with rev­er­ence for achiev­ing per­fec­tion.

There is anoth­er inter­est­ing research that showed that peo­ple per­ceived it as “fast­ing” or “starv­ing” depend­ing on the enthu­si­asm and faith they had in the tra­di­tion.

So get enthu­si­as­tic, set a goal and hap­pi­ly work towards it. Today’s effort will soon become effort­less tomor­row! How much time you take is pure­ly in your hands!


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