In Yoga, as with everything in life, you must be clear about who you are, what your values are, what is important to you, and what success looks like for/to you, and what the best way forward is for you. If you do not define these things for yourself and know what they look like in your personal life and being, you will end up failing yourself (which certainly narrows the door to true Self-Realization in this one and only lifetime). This is the price that you pay with your focus. Even if on the surface what you are doing looks “good” to others, the real key to this practice is to be eternally True to yourself.
The journey to Self-Realization is within. Plain and simple. And it is as Carl Jung once said, he/she “[w]ho looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Pressure from outside sources/forces, most likely steeped in the ego and Maya, is something that you will be tasked to overcome, especially in the age of social media where everyone is bending and contorting themselves into all kinds of shapes to look good in photos and calling it Yoga as opposed to truly connecting with/finding union with their spirit and Self through Asana practice or any other limb on the Eightfold path, which is the definition of Yoga itself. Most people skip straight to the physical work and skip over Yamas and Niyamas altogether as if these limbs did not exist on the inward path. You can check this link to one woman’s story if you need a wake-up call in regards to that.
Yoga is a personal inward journey. Self-Realization is not a communal activity or a negotiation of your spirit or being for any external applause or acknowledgment (in fact most of your greatest accomplishments will involve no fireworks and fanfare). Jesus, for example (one of my favorite Yogis), did not go into the desert with an entourage and a support team standing by for his 40 Days and 40 Nights of inner inquiry, and temptation was something he had to reject as opposed to falling into before he could come out on the other side fully aligned with who he truly was/is.
I am going to give the “pep talk” now before you travel any further down this path because you should know that there will be a different kind of work involved here than the work that you are used to doing in the external world where you can follow formulas and plug yourself into frameworks that create predictable results based on how things generally are. This work, most of which will involve shedding your ego attachments and coming completely into your Self (and not by the standard societal definition either, but in a transcended way) has only one true ingredient and one true blueprint/map/compass, and this compass is you. Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras as a guidebook because your route is different from others and this route has to be forged by you and only you through experience.
To get you thinking about what this means a little more deeply, I invite you to contemplate Robert Frost’s popular poem titled “The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Now, poetry is subjective, but I hope that got you thinking.