The indications about progress in asana postures is different to those for the pranayama breath-infusion. For postures, increased flexibility in certain postures is a sure sign that the exercises are doing something. If for instance one person begins with a very flexible ankle, postures which flex that part of the body will be easy. Hence that pose will not be a way to test the progress. The yogi would have to use a posture which from the onset was difficult. Then over time check to see if that posture became more and more flexible as time proceeded, not overnight but over a period of years.
There are certain postures which were difficult to assume when I began doing asana postures in this body. Many of these postures became flexible. This is evidence of my progress with the poses.
Even at the body’s age of sixty-five (65), I am still improving some postures. Some of these took over forty (40) years of practice to gain the required flexibility. It was not days or weeks. If I had become impatient and ceased, I would never have realized the proficiency.
For breath infusion we look at other aspects. The mastery of pranayama breath infusion is really about energy flow in the subtle body. It is a complete shift over to the subtle form but it does affect the physical body as well. The main hub of it in the physical system is its influence which causes rapid efficient digestion, which makes it so that a yogi can get the most nutrition from the least amount of food.
In the subtle body the influence of pranayama is realized, when during practice the yogi can crimp subtle energy with his willpower and he can shift and move subtle energy with his feelings/sensations only, even without physical movement. Initially when doing breath infusion, the physical movements are necessary otherwise the yogi cannot shift the energy but as he practices more and more, gradually over time, he finds that the energy becomes responsive to his willpower commands and his sensation dictations within the psyche.
This is an inner observation where the yogi becomes confident of the practice and can rate how far he progress over the years. It is not an external demonstration because it concerns psychic energy which is not perceived by physical senses. Confidence in the yoga-guru(s) must be there but that alone is not enough. The student must acquire confidence in the practice itself. There is a similar understanding on the Buddhist path where there are three pillars of confidence which are required:
· The Buddha
· The Method
· The Community of Ascetics
Even there the Buddha alone is not sufficient, even the association with monks is not enough. One must develop confidence in the method and not confidence because the teacher declared the method but due to practicing and getting results in one’s life as the very evidence which strengthen the student and give impetus of being on a progressive path.