a blog by Ellen Davies

Yoga practice: You are the creator

Remember this as you practice yoga asana today:

You are the creator of yoga.
Right Angle Pose, Parsvakonasana.

The expression of yoga is different for everyone, because of our different bodies, experiences, injuries, and so on. Focus on being aware of what your body is feeling. Slow down to get in touch with your body. Remember: the body doesn’t speak English, so the communication is all about sensation. Start by noticing the strength, fatigue, soreness, or tightness. What could those areas be telling you?

As you build awareness, you start to notice more about everything in your body. You become more sensitive to things happening, such as how certain foods make you feel, or how a long walk lifts your energy. You begin to discern how things should feel in the body, so you are more aware when things are off-balance. You may notice that a Triangle pose feels terrific, but Extended Angle pose makes your body protest.

So what do you do with that information? What if extended angle pose does make your body protest? What if it makes you anxious, or makes your hip flexors hurt, or you can’t breathe in the pose?

First thing you do: Come out of the pose.

Next: Breathe.

Accept the message from your body with lovingkindness instead of judging yourself.

Modify the pose. Extended Angle is an advanced pose. Maybe your hips aren’t ready for it yet. Give yourself a few weeks (or months) of practicing Right Angle instead, before trying Extended Angle again.

Again, no judgement. Because you are the creator of yoga. Not the instructor, who is cueing Extended Angle. Not the bendy gal next to you, who is effortlessly moving from Extended Angle into a Bind. You are. You are creating the pose and the practice that is right for you.

Extended Angle Pose, Utthita Parsvakonasana.

This is my story. For a long time, Extended Angle was my nemesis pose. I hated it. I dreaded hearing the cue from the instructor to “flow” into it. My breath would get choppy, my legs would quiver, and my jaw would clench with effort, just to get through it.

When I was in my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I admitted to the group that I hated the pose. Our leader, Pam, asked me two questions that brought me insight.

“How do you normally practice it?” Well, at that time I was taking heated vinyasa classes, and Extended Angle came after Warrior I, Warrior II, Revolved Warrior, and Triangle. So it was the culmination of a long standing sequence. As I explained this to her, it dawned on me that my body was probably getting fatigued by the time I got there, and that maybe I should take a break in between the poses.

Then she asked: “And how are you teaching it?” This made me laugh, because I was teaching it exactly the way I was practicing it. That made me realize the value of teaching authentically. Instead of trying to teach a yoga class that was a “tough workout,” I should teach in the way that was best for me.

After that, I changed my practice. When the instructor cued a long standing sequence that ended with Extended Angle, I came up for a long breath first. I let go of trying to impress everyone: Look at me! I’m in the YTT program! I stopped judging myself: Why am I the only one who can’t do this? If the instructor held it too long, I came up for another breath, then moved back into it.

It worked. Now I can practice Extended Angle and actually enjoy it. I can also flow into a bind. I can also practice Right Angle and enjoy it, without feeling like I need to push ahead into Extended.

You are the creator of yoga. What can you do today to create your own yoga practice?



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