Originally posted on Finding Isvara on May 4th, 2017
When I first started yoga, I would see pictures of beautiful poses and try to do them. Some were accessible, but at others, I would fail horribly and not understand why. My goal was to make the shape, but I didn't know how to focus on so many different aspects of my body all at the same time.
Just because a pose seems “easy” doesn't mean that is, or that it's any less important than a more advanced one. In the Ashtanga yoga method, these seemingly easy asanas are the Sun Salutations and the fundamental poses, which are common to all six series. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said that Sun Salutations A & B and the three final asanas constitute a complete practice. We should be placing more focus on these important postures.
In yoga, there should be no rushing. We should take the necessary time to observe and understand what is going on in our body and mind. As Napoleon Bonaparte used to say, “Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry.” Rushing around and not paying attention will just get you tired, injured, and create mental madness.
After years of daily yoga practice, I have realized two important things.
1. Being able to do the full expression of a pose isn't important
I never really understood why teachers or advanced practitioners would say, “it doesn’t matter if you can do a particular pose.” I would think, it’s so easy to say that when you can actually do it.
Being able to do a pose means nothing if you haven’t learned from it. Each pose is a journey. It is there to point out our weaknesses; physical, mental and emotional. In the Ashtanga method, each asana is presented in a particular order; they each have a purpose and a lesson to teach. Taking the time to understand the intent behind each will heighten our awareness and teach us how to overcome our limitations, regardless of whether we do the full expression of the posture or not.
2. If you focus on the basic poses, the advanced poses will come
Instead of trying to make the shape of a certain asana, focus on each aspect that makes up the pose. Break it down into smaller attainable goals. I remember when I was quite new to the practice, my teacher told me to pick “one thing" about a pose and work on it. When you no longer have to think about that “one thing” add on another aspect, and then another and so on. One day you’ll be able to piece it together and eventually with constant practice, it will come.
Even if you have the strength or flexibility to do more advanced postures, it doesn’t mean you should. Being able to do this asana or that asana doesn’t make you a yogi. It’s who you are when you’re off your mat that determines if your yoga is working.
Lots of Love,