The most advanced student in yoga class is often the one listening to their body and taking child's pose. While it's easy to spot the new students by their ego driven practice of "going for it" in every pose, honoring your body and your own rhythm is a sign of an advanced yogi. Same goes off the mat and into your life. Honor your own rhythm in everything you do. ---FB Status from my friend (and first yoga instructor), Kimberly
Warrior 2 in the sun.
She is so right. I have been that student who completely went for it. In fact when I started almost 6 years ago, I too treated yoga like a work out class. I wanted to do it all, and do it great. Only I found out quite quickly my body wasn't wired for practicing yoga that way. Going for it was not my answer, slowing it down and honoring my own body's limitations was. I'm not flexible. I am one tight muscled chick. I am my father's daughter.
So I was completely surprised when last Christmas my dad pulled me aside to show me a book he had recently purchased at the library's used book sale. It was called Real Men Do Yoga. I laughed at first, because my dad is a true work out kind of guy. Exactly like I used to be. He never slows down enough to stretch, let alone to contemplate a yoga class or the slowness of a yoga pose. But there he was giddy with excitement about a book with a section showing yoga poses that would help improve his golf game. Well, really it showed poses that would help him improve his flexibility, but what pulled him in was the idea that he might be able to do something about his golf game. Despite having retired several years ago, with more free time to work on his golf game, his game has actually gotten worse.
Triangle on a picnic table.
He is tight muscled, goal oriented, and in phenomenal shape for his age, but he's not very flexible. He has a body like mine, long legged, long armed, and complete with a very short torso. That may not sound like a detriment, but at times it is. For example, in a golf swing you need to be loose and free flowing. Us tight muscled peeps with short torsos have a hard time loosening up through our middle sections. It has taken me years to even begin to do a cobra properly. There is no flex in my middle.
So as he excitedly showed me the pages of his new book, it dawned on me that yoga really can be for everyone, even if you discover it late in life. Even though I am often saying it at the beginning of my yoga classes, I realized that I truly believe it. Young, old, weak, strong, flexible, tight muscled, whatever your body type, Yoga really is for everyone. And good instructors should not tell you that you should be able to go further, or kick your prop away and tell you that you don't need it, or put their hands on you to push you further into a pose. It just isn't right.
Plank on the beach.
Listen to what your body tells you. Yoga should not hurt. If something does, stop doing it and be sure to ask questions of your instructor later. Maybe they can help identify a slight modification that will help the pose feel better, or suggest an alternative. I'm certain that if they don't know the answer off the top of their head, they will get you an answer. Because good yoga instructors care about their students. And if any of them are like me, really curious by nature, we enjoy investigating and will use every question as an opportunity to learn something new to help the next student.
While the physical characteristics I inherited from my father may limit my ability to demonstrate a pose to its fullest extent, I can always make sure to demonstrate my fullest ability to do a pose (and talk my students through what it should really look like with my words.) Do what I say, not what I do. Take my very wise friend Kimberly's advice and be one of those advanced yogis in class, the one's who listen to, and heed, their own bodies.
I believe it will take you far in life, on the mat and off.