Step #2 Mad Props
“The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” – Mary Schmich
Yoga is not a competitive sport. There are no points to score, no judges grading you on a scale of 1 to 10, no winners and no losers. The only opponent you are up against during an asana class is your ego. Many other forms of group exercise like spinning and running use competition as a healthy motivational tool but yoga simply does not. And that is one of the many reasons why it’s not just “exercise” and why we love it so much.
Though we aren’t meant to compete, our ego isn’t always trying to hear that. In my personal practice I have all too often surveyed the room to compare myself to others, judged myself on my inability to hold difficult postures, cursed my inflexible hips (this one I am still working on) and eschewed the use of a prop or a modification for no other reason than my ego’s foolish pride. I’m not saying there is no merit in going for the challenging variation when it’s appropriate. What I’m saying is, as yogis we need to make a commit to ourselves to practice non-attachment to the way our poses look and instead seek to improve the way our poses feel in our own body. That feeling and thus the necessity of using props/modifications will be different from year to year and even day to day. It does not matter that you usually fly right up into half-moon pose block free. Tomorrow, that might not be the right choice and rather than allowing the inner critic to take over (“but I NAILED that pose last week. Does this mean I’m getting worse?”) or competing with our classmates, we should embrace our props for allowing us to feel the proper alignment of a pose and decreasing our strain and struggle.
Extended Side Angle A and I have a love-hate relationship: specifically, I used to hate the pose and now I love it. For about 3 years I insisted on shoving my hand down to the ground even if that meant my chest would collapse onto my thigh. My shoulders had no choice but to creep up to my ears and my breathing became tight and shallow. Rather than feeling the deep hip opening, the rotation of my torso towards the sky, and the luxurious side stretch from the outer edge of my extended leg to the fingertips of my extended hand, I just felt pissed off. Ugh, could it end already? During the five breaths on each side we held Utthita Parsvakonasana, I was in a fair amount of pain and certainly wasn’t advancing my practice by taking the “advanced” version of the pose. Multiply five classes a week times ten breaths times 3 years…well you get the picture. That’s a lot of wasted time NOT feeling the essence of a pose, not gaining anything from a pose, and even loathing a pose all because my ego thought it was too cool for a block.
One day in class I saw a student who I admire- someone I viewed as more graceful and more flexible than myself using a block in this posture and the something finally clicked. From then on, I have used a block in this posture and many others without beating myself up about it. Like this flexible block-using-yogini, we can all lead our classmates by example to the understanding that using a prop is not a sign of weakness but a sign of respect for the science of yoga and compassion for our bodies. Blocks, straps, blankets and bolsters are there to help us feel the essential alignment of a posture as we wait for our bodies to gain the strength, flexibility and balance to come into the poses prop-free. This might take years…and years, and years but that is perfectly OK. We should embrace our props and our modifications because they are our best weapons for defeating our ego on the mat. And that is the way we “win” at yoga.
Flow Fundamentals Class and Workshop
We happen to have a new Flow Fundamentals class that is great for beginners or those with recent or recurrent injuries to apply this mindfulness. This class is also great for the intermediate and advanced student who wants to fine tune or enliven their practice. Ask any yoga teacher and they’ll tell you the same: we never stop going to Fundamentals classes because there is always something new to learn. A tiny nuance to gain that will bring a fresh understanding to an old familiar pose. You can work on Tadasana til you’re old and gray and still never be done.
Flow Fundamentals is held: Saturday morning at 8am in the Backstage Studio – Come and yoga-geek out with us!
Back To School: An Absolute Beginners Workshop is held: Saturday 9/20 from 1:30-3:30pm. Go deeper by joining us for two straight hours of nitty gritty asana exploration. This is the place to ask those questions you are thinking during your R1 classes. See your yoga practice with a fresh pair of eyes and breathe new life into your flow. Sign up online ahead of time here: http://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ws.asp?studioid=22314&stype=-8&sTG=23&sVT=12&sView=day&sTrn=100000060&sDate=9%2F20%2F2014
Meet the Author: Amanda is one of the newest faces here at Reyn Studios. Amanda is currently developing a community building portal for yogis called The Social Sutras and was recently featured in a 34-part Yoga For Beginner series on About.com. She is a Healthy Living Blogger for The Huffington Post and lives in the Bywater with her husband Paul and her dog Lala.