First of all, happy new year to everyone. May your 2017 be full of health, happiness, and of course yoga! And thank you to all of you who follow my blog, and contribute via comments whether on the blog or in real life.
I started this blog mainly as an outlet for my thoughts, not really counting on people being interested in what I write, but I am happy to see that the Iyengar online community sometimes drops by.
Being in my last year of both PhD and Introductory teacher training, life gets sometimes hectic, and I don’t have as much time as I would like to contribute to this blog. So, sorry if the posts are spaced out! The posting flexibility is what makes my blogging experience enjoyable.
Have you taken resolutions this year? I haven’t really, apart from going to the dentist and the dermatologist (due to past bad experiences, I really dislike going to MDs, but I need to get my teeth and my moles checked…). I tend to think that if you want to change something in your life, you shouldn’t wait until January 1st. As soon as you’ve identified the issue, find out what you have to do to resolve it, and do it!
“Yeah, right, if it were that easy, everyone would do it!” – is probably what you’re thinking. And I agree, sometimes it’s not that simple.
I’ve recently started thinking of the learning process in asana, and come up with this 3-step description:
- Awareness comes first. You cannot correct a pose if you’re not aware of what you’re doing wrong, or that you’re even doing something wrong in the first place. For example, in Virabhadrasana II, many beginners let their bent knee “fall in”, putting a lot of pressure on the joint, but often they do not realize that I’m talking to them if I would just say “Bring your knee in line with your ankle”! So I have to ask them to look at their knee (thus bringing their awareness to the bent knee) and make sure that it is on top of the ankle.
The perfect Virabhadrasana II by a young Geeta Iyengar, learn why it’s so perfect at Iyengar Home Practice
- Then comes the technical knowledge, or the “how to”. Once you’re aware you’re doing something wrong, you need to know how to correct it before you can actually do it (duh!). Continuing with the Vira II example, it’s understanding that pressing the outside of the front foot down will bring the knee in line. Disclaimer: this is a gross description of what needs to happens for the knee to be in the right position, but usually improves a beginner’s pose immensely.
- And finally, there is the ability to make that change. It is very well possible to be aware of a change you need to make and how to make it, but you’re physically unable to make it. Sometimes you just need to work on getting more flexibility or more strength in other poses until you can do the required action. Continuing with the Vira II example again, while everyone (?- at least anyone who would be doing regular standing poses) can press their feet down, someone with limited flexibility in the hip area might find it very hard to press the outside of the front foot without falling to the inside of the back foot / bending their back knee / letting the back hip come forward (take your pick).
In Iyengar yoga, we use props to facilitate the learning process at any of these stages. For example, we use blocks in between the shoulderblades to bring the awareness to the point they’re touching. A block between the thighs can be used to learn how to bring the inner thighs back. A belt can be used around the foot if you cannot grab your big toe with your fingers while keeping your leg straight (cf Supta Padangusthasana below). The props enable you to work and progress at your own rhythm, within your own capacities.
Now, read again that sentence in italics from the last paragraph. Doesn’t it also apply to your resolutions? To all these changes that you feel you should be doing, and you know how to do it, but feel unable to do. You wouldn’t quit doing yoga because you can’t reach your toes, right? If you cannot touch your toes, it’s an extra reason why you should be doing yoga. So grab that belt, and stretch your leg! And bring your practice outside the mat, use figurative props to help attain your goals. Divide your objective into steps, of which the first one is easily attainable, do the first step, ask for help if needed 🙂
One last tip. Sometimes it’s hard to know what direction to take or which problem to tackle first. I find that whatever comes up during Savasana and distracts me from my breath and going inwards is what I need to take care of in priority, especially if it comes back regularly. If you’re thinking about what you’re gonna have for dinner, well… maybe you don’t have so many issues that need to be care of and should just try to focus more. However, I’ve had cases when I needed to take care of bank or love issues, which I thought were not a priority, but were really distracting me in Savasana until I did something about it. Once I had fixed them, I felt so freed! I had not realized they were weighting me down by occupying brain space at the back of my mind, every single day.
What do you think about my analogy, and did I forget learning steps? Looking forward to your feedback 🙂