By Jennifer Dixon MBA ERYT 500
Do you remember as a kid, when you’d get picked up from school and your parent would ask, “what did you learn today?” Sometimes, that question would end up with a monologue I’m not sure my parents even paid attention to, and sometimes it was just a quick, “eh, nothing….”. Well, of course, I do the same thing with my kids. Granted, one can’t talk yet, but my 3-year-old, when asked, can give an answer that tells me political office is in her future, or maybe a very prolific blog or vlogging career…. (I’m not sure where she got THAT from…) Well, last week, My daughter came home from her preschool with a cute “Strawberry Shortcake” sticker she was very proud of, displayed prominently across her chest. It said, “Growing better every day!”
Of course, that sticker had a long story behind it, why she got it, the events of the day, etc (most of which I THINK I caught…)These stories all tied in well with the daily, “What did you learn today?” question and got me to thinking….. When did I stop asking and answering that question about my own day? Have you stopped answering the question of what you learned today?
Here’s the thing, what you’re learning doesn’t have to be amazing, it can be very subtle, and that little nuance can have a snowball. This is true even in your Yoga practice. This is why I LOVE LOVE LOVE teaching and practicing the fundamental yoga asanas. I know that it’s not the super sexy social media worthy stuff, but it’s the fundamentals that help to make those poses possible, and safely.
When I was much newer to the practice, I used to beg my teachers (thankfully, more seasoned than I was), to teach me how to do XYZ pose….I was never told NOT to do something, but, more like I do to my children today, I was distracted into doing other poses, or allowed to experience the trial of the pose, but then brought back to something more basic and told to focus there. Which is exactly what a good teacher should do. My teacher, Manju says this all the time,
If you want to practice or learn a pose, do it! If your teacher tells you not to, find another teacher. Disclaimer here, a good teacher will not stop you from doing a pose, but a good teacher will help you learn the poses that your body needs to strengthen or open up (usually through more fundamental poses) and then the other poses will come naturally.
Here’s the thing that time, and consistent practice will teach you though (as well as a good teacher), it’s not the advanced asana that makes the practice, it’s the persistent, daily ritual of meeting up with where you are in the moment, moving, exploring, trying, not getting tied up in what you can or can’t do, growing better every day, that will help you get into the more advanced asanas (or poses.)
What is an advanced asana? Frankly, it depends. For some people, and advanced asana is touching their toes. For some people, it’s standing on their hands. Sure, there are some insanely difficult positions, but each of them is relative to the person practicing. The person that can stick their leg behind their head didn’t just wake up and get that thing back there (unless it’s my 3-year-old daughter). No, that person showed up on the mat and practiced standing forward folds, seated forward folds, Pyramid and Triangle, and so many more “basic” poses until their hamstrings were conditioned enough to try that pose.
Most people don’t want to keep practicing for years and years to do that. Most people think I’ve been practicing for 3 months, why can’t I do a headstand? Let me tell you, it took me 5 years to get a headstand consistently. I’m scared to death of being upside down and I have a bad whiplash injury so headstands (or any upside down pose is like an uphill battle …every.single.day.) Does that mean I give up? Oh heck no! It means I keep practicing downward facing dog, drills in Down dog, drills in forearm plank and dolphin, I keep practicing less challenging poses, to build up the necessary strength to make the pose more accessible.
You can do that too! The Thrive Yoga and Wellness Blog has already had posts about chaturanga (yoga push up). Stay tuned, we will be doing posts that discuss and break down the fundamental poses, and how you can practice them, to help you reach your yoga goals, whatever they may be. If you have a question about an asana (or pose) please leave a comment, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I read EVERY email and I will respond to all of them, and who knows, maybe even create you a special post about just that question! My goal is to leave a legacy of information embracing the fundamental yoga postures, working them, re-working them, and showing you how you can use them to help you achieve your yoga goals. Whether you’re brand new to the practice or have been practicing for years, I promise you, a focus on the basics will be beneficial. Who knows, maybe this 1000th time, you hear, see or experience a posture in a completely different way which finally helps you stick the pose you’ve been struggling to do. Let’s work together and share our successes!