When you type “yoga” into Google images, you either get pictures of people sitting cross-legged or you see them in some crazy pose. While there is a little more variety on social media, Instagram especially, you still mostly see photos of mind-blowing poses that you might not have a clue how you would get into, but even if you did, you think you would probably pull something. That can lead to some tricky stuff.
Some people see a magnificent pose and decide to work hard and practice it every day. Some people might be able to do it without any practice at all. But then what? Do they just move onto the next hard pose? What have they gained except that now they can do that pose? Did they learn anything along the way?
I was flipping through Darren Rhodes’ Yoga Resource Practice Manual looking for inspiration for class when I came upon this quote:
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: All that hatha yoga has to offer can be found in the basic poses. The more advanced poses are not more valuable. Another way of saying it: As the poses get more difficult, the risks increase while the rewards essentially remain the same.”
Christina Sell has a video on her YouTube channel talking along the same line. “The pose is not the point,” was how she summed it up. The journey to the pose is much more powerful than being able to do a pose. You learn about your body on a deeper level and you learn about yourself, sometimes stuff we might not want to have learned (ex: when I get extremely frustrated, my defense mechanism is to shut down and avoid the situation at all costs. Not my finest).
So, you want to nail that handstand or a backbend. Then what am I telling you to do? I don’t want you to stop trying, but take a step away and get back to basics. As Darren said, the basic poses are where you learn the most. You learn strong alignment principles. You learn how to target different areas of the body. For me, I love using the basics to tune into what I refer to as my “eccentricities,” aka my weak points. I focus on those areas and work on strengthening them and/or work on creating flexibility in my tighter areas. Bodies are constantly changing. How your Down Dog feels on Monday will probably not be how it feels on Friday. There is always something to gain from going back to basics.
Then once you’ve started to feel more balanced in those poses, try that advanced pose again. You might be surprised at your progress. And even if you still can’t do it yet, that doesn’t make you any less of a person. In fact, you will probably be better for it. You haven’t given up and you are building strength from the inside out.
What poses have you struggled with, but have ultimately learned so much more from? Also, be sure to check out Christina Sell’s video here. You won’t regret it – she is an incredible teacher!