It’s a difficult time to be a yoga student.
Granted, the availability of yoga classes is probably greater than at any point in history so, in that sense, we’ve got it easy, compared to the pioneers who went before us. But we have a big problem that they didn’t have.
We know what all the asanas are supposed to look like.
In the old days, the student had no reference to books, magazines, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or even other yoga students. They were taught an asana by their teacher; given as much or as little instruction as was appropriate for them, and they did the asana the way that their own particular body allowed them to.
These days we have the ability to google any new asana that we’re learning and we will be treated to photos and videos of a plethora of strong, flexible, slim, beautiful people doing the pose perfectly. Then we go back to our mat and try to imitate what we saw on the internet.
And what’s the result?
And a broken spirit.
It’s a jungle out there!
We have to always remember that we don’t have the same genetic material as anybody else. Our bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles are not the same shape or size and are not in the same proportions as anybody else. And the version of any given asana that we do will never, ever be identical to the version that somebody else does.
That’s not the point!
So I encourage you all to find the space inside each yoga posture where you can experience balance; the balance of sthira (steadiness) and sukha (happiness or comfort). Too often we’re seeking one or the other without trying to balance them. We’re either pushing too hard to achieve steadiness, or we’re taking the easy way out to achieve comfort. I must say that, for most ashtanga yoga students, it’s the former!!
Learn to relax in the asanas. It’s so much more enjoyable. Don’t force and fight against the body to try and achieve what you saw somebody doing on the internet or in a book.
When we learn to relax we open up so many more opportunities for new experiences in the yoga practice. It can become a meditation practice where we can observe the effects of each asana on ourselves. How does the first vinyasa of Surya Namaskara A really feel? Why is that the first movement we make in the practice and what is its effect on us? Are we bringing too much strain and tension to that first vinyasa or are we flopping around without any steadiness at all?
When we start to observe the practice in that way, we can start to get inside the asana.
Get to know the asanas in your own body, with your own experience and forget about what somebody says in their book or on their Instagram account. None of that has got anything to do with you.
Enjoy your practice.