A while back I had a conversation with a client about their postures. They told me that at times they feel like they aren’t “very good at postures” when they look at other students in class. They feel like they aren’t good enough.
Have you ever felt like this? Maybe you’ve felt lost in Sun Salutations or more stiff than anyone else in Seated Straddle Splits. The body feels ok but your mind tells you that you aren’t good enough.
The Yoga Sutras, a defining historical yogic text, tells us that perfection in a yoga pose, an asana, is the ability to find steadiness and comfort in that pose (2.46). In the entire book of the Yoga Sutras it doesn’t mention how flexible or how strong you are in relationship to your postures, not once. If the only thing that mattered to perfect a posture was to look pretty in it by being flexible, then any gymnast, dancer or Chinese acrobat would be enlightened.
The perfect pose is so much more than just flexibility. The next time you see yourself looking at another person in what your mind tells you is the perfect pose stop and observe a few things: how long has that person been practicing? Are they breathing smoothly and easily? Do they feel comfortable and steady or are they struggling and forcing? Perhaps that is a pose that just fits their bodies and they struggle elsewhere.
Now, do the same thing for yourself. In a pose that your mind tells you that you aren’t good at close your eyes, take a deep breath and observe yourself. No matter what you look like, do you feel comfortable and steady? If not, can you find those elements by softening your efforts? Is this a new pose to you? You have a lifetime to perfect postures, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Can you feel your breath smoothly flowing in and flowing out? If you are holding your breath simply start breathing again. Is your mind calm and at ease? Let your thoughts relax and be focused.
Seated Straddle Splits, Upavista Konasana, is the perfect pose to practice self-love and acceptance in.
- Start Seated Straddle Splits with the legs wide and perhaps elevate the hips on the edge of a blanket. Don’t worry about how far apart your feet are. Just go where your body takes you.
- Let the feet be active and flex the toes up toward the sky.
- It can feel nice to begin with the hands behind your back on the floor, helping to lift the rib cage and roll the shoulders down and back.
- Are you feeling anything yet? This might be your pose, right here.
- If you’d like a little more, press into the finger tips and begin hinging forward from the hips. No matter how far you tilt forward, do so with integrity and lots of length in the spine. This is a hip hinge rather than a waist hinge.
- When it feels right, bring the hands forward to the floor.
- Eventually, with consistent practice, your body will begin to move farther into the fold. One day (perhaps) the belly button, heart and head will all reach the floor together.
Be patient with the process of this pose (and every pose). Breathe your way into it. If the low back is feeling tight, explore swaying the spine gently side to side and then come back to the center with more space. Even play with closing the eyes if you are looking at other people’s poses, comparing yourself to them. Let the practice take you into connection with your body, mind and heart and surrender your attachment to how you think the pose should look. When you do, you’ll feel yourself present in the moment. The perfect moment and the perfect pose.
With this fresh perspective of your asana practice know that you are perfect at yoga no matter what your body looks like as long as you feel comfortable and steady in your practice. We have all been blessed with our own unique bodies. Love and embrace your body as it is rather than feel in adequate. You are perfect just as you are. Relish in your wholeness.
Founder of Maitri