It Doesn’t Matter What your Pose Looks Like

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Last night I was at a martial arts class preparing for an upcoming belt test. I realized just how much I am not ready! There were things I thought I knew but didn’t remember under pressure. It was disheartening. I left with bruised arms and a bruised ego.

At home, my boys asked about class. I said that I wasn’t ready to test and thought I would just skip it (holding back tears at this point…). My son said, “Mom go anyway. It doesn’t matter if you get your belt, you still get to do a class.”

Out of the mouths of babes (well pre-teen babes!) He was right. I was more focused on the outcome than the process.

Do you ever get stuck on making your pose “just right”?

In yoga it is easy to get hyper-focused on what a pose should look like. Maybe you want to do the perfect downward dog with your heels all the way to the floor. Or in standing forward fold, you don’t bend your knees. No matter what. Because that is not the “correct” way to do it.

What might happen if you did bend your knees a little? Maybe even a lot… Perhaps you’d find some extra space in your low back or a nice release in your hamstrings.

I have a teacher, Marla, whose mantra is “there is no universal alignment.” Everyone’s body parts and how they fit together is different. You may never have the “perfect pigeon” because your femur bone hits a point of compression in your hip socket when externally rotated. It’s bone on bone. You can stretch the hell out of the muscles but it still won’t happen.

I happen to have a lot of external rotation in my hips. It’s not bad or good; it’s just the way I’m built. So asking you to place your body in the exact same way that I place mine doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Marla cues in terms of “target area.” Target area is where you are meant to feel the pose. She guides you into the pose and then says something like “you should feel this in your right hip.” This teaches you to be your own teacher and to make adjustments until you feel it in the intended muscle or tissue.

She is not concerned about what the pose looks like. I remember her saying that she loves to look out at the class and see everyone’s poses looking different from each other!

Yoga is not about rigidity. We strive for flexibility in our bodies and fluidity in our minds. So why should we care so much about the perfect outcome – the way the pose looks?

Focus on the journey, not the pose.

  1. Understand that you are a work in progress. We all are! How boring would it be if we were all perfect? Every expert was once a beginner. Remind yourself that your yoga practice is that – a practice.
  2. Don’t compare. Your forward fold is not the same as the person beside you. And it doesn’t matter. Your body knows where it needs to go if you listen. Instead of cursing your body, work with it. Be ok with not doing the “perfect pose” Your version is perfect for you.
  3. Alignment is important. But it is not the exact same for everyone. Find your alignment by focusing on the intended target area. Ask yourself, “Where should I feel this?” and then make adjustments so that you feel it there.
  4. Be humble. This does not mean putting yourself down. It’s more about having an attitude of openness and a willingness to learn. For example, try something new in a pose even if you have been practicing it one way for years. Doesn’t have to be drastic – bend or straighten more. Where does that take you?

Of course this applies to life. I am sure you have heard some version of:

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. ~Greg Anderson

Dreams and goals move you forward and help you create your life. But just don’t forget to enjoy the little things along the way that make it so wonderful.

I hope you find many moments to savor this week! That’s all for now grasshopper 😉

Image courtesy of SantiMB.Photos

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