I have been curious this week in my practice about the yogic principle of virya. The sanskrit word virya is often translated as 'effort' but can also be translated as 'energy', 'diligence' or 'enthusiasm'. 

While it seems a simple concept that we of course should apply some effort in our practice, I found it interesting when I really started to look at the idea of 'right effort'.

Do we really apply as much effort as we could or should in some areas of our practice? Or perhaps do we sometimes apply too much effort?


In asana (the physical practice of yoga), applying too much effort to a pose or sequence can result in wasted energy, excess tension, and frustration. More is not always more! Too much effort can go hand in hand with a desire to 'succeed' at a pose which can result in striving and forcing. Too much effort can couple with the internal expectation to always practice most intense or difficult version of every pose, even if it's in conflict with energy levels or physical ability.
At the other end of the scale, too little effort applied to a yoga practice can mean one does not reach their full potential. Someone applying too little effort may not receive some of the physical or mental benefits of a practice. Too little effort may result in no practice at all, or staying away from the internal or external work required to build mental and physical strength and focus.

'Right effort' is in between too much, and too little. It can look like modifications for some, and facing challenges for others. It may also vary from task to task - I know there are poses in my yoga practice where I tend to apply too much effort, and others where I do not apply enough. This is true both on and off the mat, though we often err towards one more habitually than the other.

There is no prescribed amount of effort that is required to find balance and it will vary day to day, task to task, and change depending on the situation you're in.
I invite you to invite the practice of virya to be your guide when you next step on your yoga mat, when you're in the gym, running, meditating or singing.