Some years ago, I was at a gathering and a friend of mine was telling us that she’d recently taken up yoga. She was telling us about the different benefits she gets from practicing yoga; things like focus, relaxation, rejuvenation, and so on. Then she mentioned something along the lines of ‘we’re supposed to get all that from salah but I don’t so I found this as a good alternative’. She wasn’t implying that she would stop praying, but more that she had lost hope in finding personal benefit beyond whatever salah was already giving her. I remember feeling sad but also at a loss for what to say. I also wanted all those things she found in yoga, and wasn’t finding them in my prayer.
The fact of the matter is that many of us, when we pray, feel nothing. This is despite the fact that we may have been praying for years, being diligent in our timeliness, and even trying to add extra prayers to our day. Prayer becomes burdensome and loathsome: something to fit into your schedule out of obligation rather than pleasure. How can it be that so much practice has yielded so little progress?
Upon reflection, what my friend said provided me with immense guidance. Yoga is a ‘practice’ and, like so many other physical fitness endeavors, requires building of stamina over time to achieve noticeable progress. Being able to lift 300 pounds doesn’t happen the first day you go to the gym. It doesn’t happen the tenth or even the fiftieth time either. The same applies to running many miles or doing amazing backbends. To be able to see results physically, intentional practice is necessary . This means maintaining a regular regiment of practice. Not only that, but you also need to watch what you eat, research methods of progressing, refine your form constantly, consider taking supplements, and so on. The diligence necessary to achieve a physical fitness goal is not just at the gym, it’s beyond that and can take over your life. The more you want to achieve, the more committed you need to be.