Whenever I feel like I’m not making enough progress in my life I’m reminded of bamboo.

Before bamboo shoots up, it takes its time to establish its roots. What appears dormant for years is actually growing beneath the surface.

Bamboo plants take about three to five years to establish their root system. In this time we only see the single stalk on the surface floundering. Despite the watering and fertilising, nothing changes. The stalk remains the same for years. Then, when the conditions are right, bamboo can grow half a meter in a day. It’s capable of rapid growth because it has the strong root system to support it.

So when the things I water and nurture in life don’t show immediate growth, I remember the bamboo. I remember that the roots grow deep and that lasting change needs a firm foundation to support the outward growth.

Often when we embark on something new, we get frustrated because we don’t get instant results and we wonder whether our time and effort is going to pay off.  Outward progress doesn’t reflect inner progress. Just because you can’t touch your toes or stand on your head in yoga doesn’t mean your yoga practice isn’t working.

Yoga changes us from the inside out. It seeps into our cells, our breath and eventually our mind. Only when internal conditions are right will we flourish and display our progress. Until then, it remains beneath the surface. Our progress in yoga is not measured by our depth in a pose it’s about living yoga, being yoga rather than just doing yoga a few hours a week.

When we are yoga we can reach our fullest potential. We infuse our cells with conscious awareness, our breath comes alive and the mind becomes the object rather than the subject of our awareness. Mind and body are united and we can experience bliss consciousness that arises from the stillness of the quiet mind. The poses in yoga are fertile soil for our roots, the breath is the air, we water our plant through our awareness and meditation is the sun.

Imagine giving up when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough? After watching your bamboo plants languish for years you decide to dig them up and replace them with something else. Then as you’re trying to pull out this weak-looking stem you realise it has strong, deep roots.

All good things take time. Nothing substantial and lasting comes without effort. Don’t give up on your practice just because you can’t see the visual progress. It’s happening beneath the surface and you will rise when the conditions are right.


As you look back on the year that was, maybe you’re not where you want to be but you’ve still made progress. All change starts with a decision.