Have you ever been so obsessed with a posture, and you just wanted so bad to master it?
Like, you practice it over and over. You even obsess about it in your sleep.
When you’re watching television you think:
“I’ll just practice getting my leg over my head now. Maybe if I just sit in pigeon for an hour, I’ll finally open up. Let me Google it again. There’s gotta be a blog or video with that one trick to help me! Maybe if I go on a juice fast I’ll finally bind my hands in Supta Kurmasana.”
Or what about when you finally do it, but then you can’t seem to replicate it?
Been there! Done that!
Yes, I have been that obsessed with postures.
That’s how it was when I first started my practice.
See, in Ashtanga Mysore style, you add on posture by posture through the instruction of your teacher over a period of time.
I hear some people say they are “stopped or stuck in a posture.”
We need to stop saying that.
When you go to school, you don’t say you’re stopped at algebra. Or, your stopped at science. It’s just where you are. So, let’s change our thinking. You are just where you are.
You are learning, gaining more awareness, getting to know yourself one step at a time.
This can happen in led classes, too. Since you’re practicing the same postures each time, you become very aware of the ones that seem impossible, and that’s usually where your effort and mind goes.
“How can I crunch into this posture? Let me look at the person next to me who perfectly compacts herself into this little pretzel. There’s gotta be some trick that I’m just not getting! Ugh, my arms just aren’t long enough.”
Some people think of mastery as replicating the shape of a posture you see in a picture.
If you think of it in terms of how the posture looks, then this will be a lonnnnnng road ahead!
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it just has to be good enough, and then you just keep on growing and improving.
This is why you can’t compare yourself to anyone else!
Here’s what I mean:
♥ If it’s just about looks, you’re going to feel like you’re stuck. If you think you’re stuck on the mat, then you’ll be stuck off the mat. You’re creating that mindset in life too.
♥ What you create on the mat, you bring into your life. Rather than thinking of it as being stuck, you need to accept where you are, and enjoy learning from it.
♥ You want to be thinking about how to find peace where you are. How can you breathe gracefully through any situation? If you can’t breathe easy, then the work is to get to a place where you can.
I can promise you that getting your leg behind your head or pressing up into a handstand isn’t going to bring you closer to peace and enlightenment!
All postures are shapes, and every posture needs to be appreciated as a journey:
Each time you do a posture, you take a small step on the path.
So, if you’re just starting Urdvha Dhanurasana (backbends), and you can only press up to your head, then that is one step. Keep breathing and doing that until you can lift up a little more.
Then, eventually you straighten your arms.
Then, you find more openness and strength inside, and you can start to walk your hands in.
Your legs get stronger, and you can hold it longer.
Then, the panic and dread of backbends goes away.
See what I did there?
There is always somewhere to go. There is always more to learn.
Eventually, you’ll be able to come into it deeper, and maybe take the shape you see in the picture, but that’s still not mastery.
In fact, every time I practice, it feels completely new to me.
It wasn’t until years later when Janu Shirsanana really started to open my hips.
It was only recently that I realized if you really press strong through the shoulders and hand in Parivritta Trikonasana, then I find total freedom in my center to twist.
If I really reach through my fingertips in Utthita Trikonasana, then I can feel space open between my shoulders.
These are postures I’ve been doing since the beginning, but as I become more aware, and my body opens and changes, so does the posture.
It’s not just about the physical movement, but about the mind and deep layers of emotion, too.
Sometimes I easily come into a posture, but feel a new anxiety in my heart, or an overwhelming feeling of comfort and love that I’ve been longing for.
So, if it’s completely moving and changing, then how can you ever possibly master a posture?
It’s not about looks. It can’t be. It’s gotta be about what’s going on in the mind and heart.
It’s a journey. Not a destination.
I had a teacher in a class recently that kept repeating…
“Breathe life into the posture. Make sure the posture works for you. Is the posture alive with expansiveness and breath, or are you tight and constricted? The breath is what gives your practice purpose.”
Some postures are NOT easy.
When I work on Pasasana, I sometimes feel like I can barely breathe. But, you have to become aware enough to figure out how to access your breath.
It’s not always about pulling back – but it’s about finding stillness in the moment.
Yesterday I was called on stage to help during a speech at a conference, and I was really nervous. It’s never bad once I get going, but I always get these thoughts beforehand about backing out.
I know that’s silly, so I just use my breath to calm down. I breathe through it, and it’s always okay.
It’s like that with the postures, too. How can you learn to just find the calmness in your mind and body so you can breathe, and make it through?
How can you let go of any panic, and relax the part of your body that’s tight? It might be from pulling back a little, but it also might be right where you are, and within you at that moment.
So, where are you in your practice?
Are you pushing, pulling, and frustrated? Are you feeling stuck? Do you find yourself breathing fast, holding your breath, or even grunting?
That is not yoga.
So, it’s not really about mastering postures. It’s about mastering life. It’s about mastering uncertainty. It’s about non-attachment.
It’s about finding that freedom in your body and expansiveness in your breath even when things feel impossible.
It’s about enjoying the process even when it’s scary.
Once you’ve mastered that, then you’re ready for the next lesson.