If you’re worried that your Warrior isn’t deep enough, your Crow will never fly or your Pigeon looks a bit ruffled, read this.
In spite of what Instagram might lead you to believe, the best part about yoga has nothing to do with how you look. In fact, if you’re caught up in appearances, you could be cheating yourself out of the absolute bliss of it all (and setting yourself up for injury).
For a strong, life-giving practice, let go of achieving “perfect” poses. No matter how advanced a yogi you are, there’ll always be more to learn—thank goodness. That’s what makes life interesting. Instead, embrace where you’re at right now. And, remember …
There Isn’t One Right Way to Do a Yoga Pose
People come in all different shapes and sizes, with variations in structure, mobility, strength, stress level and physical history—so, it only makes sense that one form does not fit all. In other words, there are as many ways to execute a movement or pose as there are people.
… not to mention the fact that your own form may vary from class to class and over the lifetime of your practice.
So, forget the photos you see online, ignore the other yogis around you and let go of expectation.Even though we’re all practicing the same poses, our bodies will inevitably make different shapes. The important thing is that you’re doing the right work. Share on Twitter
Can You Feel Yourself Working?
But, how can we be doing the same pose if we’re in different shapes? And, how do you know if you’re doing the work? Let’s consider, for example, Double Pigeon Pose.
In Double Pigeon, some peoples’ legs settle easily to the floor, just like a textbook photo. If this is you, your top calf will stack neatly, resting skin-to-skin, on top of the other calf. For others (raises hand), the top knee is up in the air with plenty of space to fit a basketball between the calves. Neither shape is better than the other. These are just variations of the same pose to help different bodies achieve the same work. In other words, if you feel the stretch during Double Pigeon in your hips/groin, you’re doing it right.
And, that’s the key.You have to tune in to how you feel to know if you’re doing a pose correctly. If your teacher cues you to lengthen your spine or engage your glutes, for example, pay attention and feel if you are. Share on Twitter
If you’re not sure where you should feel a pose, ask. Practicing at home? Then Google it up! Every yoga pose has as many alignment cues as you’ve got body parts, so a more in-depth explanation can be really helpful. You might discover that a simple modification or a prop (e.g., a block or strap) is all you need to finally experience what an “impossible” pose is all about.
Your Edge: Where Challenge Meets SafetyTo keep your practice safe and sustainable for life, and to tap into the benefits of yoga, you have to be mindful of your edge. Poses should feel challenging, not painful. Share on Twitter
In other words, if you’re uncomfortable in an asana, that’s totally normal. 😛 Strength, endurance and mobility work aren’t comfortable, and it’s important to push yourself! But, if you’re in any kind of pain, stop. Keep in mind:
- You should be able to regulate your breath. If you’re gasping for air or you forget to breathe, back off.
- You should feel the work in the meat of your muscles, not in the joints.
- If you feel any twinges, tweaks, grinding or stabbing sensations, call it day. It never pays to work an injury. Rest your body so you can come back strong.
And, of course, if you’re not sure whether a sensation is discomfort or pain, play it safe. Every pose isn’t for every body on every day, and that’s OK.
A Word on Photo-Worthiness
We’re wired for play. It’s fun to see what we’re capable of and to work towards more advanced poses. Just do it safely. Be patient and allow your body to move—don’t force it.If you practice for the joy of the experience and stay mindful of your edge, you'll be amazed at what you can do with time. Share on Twitter
And, if you’re looking for an Insta-worthy photo to share, go snap one right now. You’re camera-ready already.
P.S. What yoga pose are you struggling with, and how? Leave a comment, and maybe I can help.