In my yoga classes, I give my students freedom to explore in their practice and permission to move their bodies in untraditional ways. Recently when teaching Warrior II in class, I encouraged my students to discover what felt right for their bodies instead of looking at the alignment of their feet or knee over their ankle. I asked, “Do you feel pain or stress in your inner back knee? If the answer is yes, see what it feels like to step your back foot wider towards the side of the mat." I then asked, “Do you feel too much torque on your front hip or lower back? If so, try stepping your front foot wider towards the side edge of the mat or allow your front leg to rotate less externally." I encouraged my students to ask how they felt and to deviate from the "normal" alignment in favor of what felt better in their body. I saw glimmers of “aha” moments where students looked at me with excitement for being given permission to color outside the lines.
However, one student decided to say out loud, “but that is not right.” Her remark triggered something inside me. It reminded me of guru-like teachers not allowing for open conversation. It was as if a child asked, “why” and the teacher or parent said, “because, I said so.” Not a good enough answer for me. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to start a full-on conversation with her, but I did have the space to continue to show her what I meant. I said, “Instead of taking my word, try it for yourself. Ask questions, critically think, and be with each process.
We forget that we aren’t robots. We are constantly reminded by magazines and social media about what the “norm” should be. It has gotten better over the years, but we still see ideals of what our bodies “should” look like and in yoga land we see pictures of how our bodies should line up perfectly. So of course, it is easy to believe that narrative.
But remember, asana is just one tool to help us become more self-aware and to be present with what is. So, if we get caught up on the specifics of how the asana looks, we are missing the point of the practice all together.
My question is, if the traditional alignment of asana is causing pain, injury, or a lack of connection, perhaps we should try another alternative. Otherwise we are just being insane. One of my teachers said, “Instead of using the body to get into the pose, use the pose to get into the body.” In other words, the pose is just an idea. So why not take the idea and find ways to implement it in your own unique structure knowing every day is different?
As I said, don’t take it from me. Try it for yourself. I am leading a workshop on July 28th called Adapting Poses for Your Body. I would love for you to join me. Together we will break down the mechanics behind common yoga poses that are practiced in yoga asana classes and find fun and unique ways to apply it to you.
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Hi, I'm Lauren and I am here to support people to find freedom in being authentic and the power to carry that out in their lives and community. Writing is one way I like to explore that for myself. Here is my archive of reflections.