Couple of days back I read an article where an ex-Indian Hockey Captain who had won Hockey Gold medal for India in 1980 Olympics , blasting the current Indian Hockey team for playing poorly in the London Olympics 2012 claiming that the real reason why the Indian Hockey team is getting royally thrashed from all teams is due to the fact that Indian Hockey players "lack the basics" and that they need to "learn the basics first "before they contemplate on entering the Indian team and all the basics must be learnt at a Junior level and not after they enter the Indian squad for Olympics .
Now Imagine an entire team going to Olympics with out proper skill in Basics and getting royally thrashed there from other teams . It is not that the Indian Hockey team were casual contenders for Olympics , they did prepare seriously and all of the players were committed but when it comes to competing with the best , all their loop holes were exposed and they turned out to be failures .
The same thing applies to even Yoga practice . There is lot of talk on practice - "Ounce of Practice equals tons of theory "- Swami Sivananda , " Yoga is 99% practice ,1 % theory"- Pattabhi Joise and this is mechanically being repeated by their respective followers and they enter in to a brute practice and while the smarter ones are able to do an intelligent practice and achieve success while the vast majority get injured and confused as to where the mistake is .
Practice no doubt is very essential to enhance the skill in any activity be it Sports , Cooking , Yoga ,Music etc etc but what sort of practice is what we need to understand .The quality of practice matters a lot than quantity . You can practice Yoga 99% wrongly and will reach only a dead end while another person even if he does !% practice rightly will be able to take the next step to reach 2% level and slowly build up to 100% . This is where the role of a teacher comes in .The teacher must take care to see the student leans the basics first and be thorough with the basics before he goes to the next level . Now the question is what does "basics mean" in the context of Yoga ? It will vary from one style to another style and from teacher to teacher . This is a very subjective area and I see no consensus on this issue . That is one of the reason why I stick to the principles of "Anatomy and Kinesiology" when it comes to defining what is the basics with regard to movement . This is independent of any particular school of Yoga or of any particular teacher . This is my way of looking at things in Yoga . Other people will have their own interpretations on this issue .
If we look at the Videos of master Yoga practitioners we will see their perfect mastery of the entire body and lot of intelligence and grace in their practice .No doubt they had years of practice to fine tune their skills but even when the practiced , the practiced with "lot of intelligence" .They had their basics right and hence they could execute the postures with perfect grace and elegance .
So in conclusion : Practice is necessary for perfection but that practice must be intelligent and must train the students in the basics first before taking him to higher levels . Mechanical and un-intelligent practice will never help you master any skill perfectly .I conclude by giving the quote of the famous Yoga Teacher Derek Ireland on Yoga practice : Your Yoga practice is less about how much you can do and more about how deeply you can do little .So quality matters in the end .