Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should When you practice yoga regularly, you expect a linear pattern to emerge: each pose becomes slightly more accessible, you become a little stronger, a little more flexible, and a little more focused.
While this may be true over the long term for many poses, I find the day-to-day experience to be less predictable. There are times I can’t get into the pose I could yesterday — or even one I entered a few poses earlier in the practice. A huge area of growth in my practice has been letting go of what I “should” be able to do and listen honestly and respectfully to my body’s possibilities and limitations in each moment. Becoming less attached to past attempts can be difficult, but can result in a more fulfilling –not to mention safer– practice overall.
I remind myself of this any time I’m trying Bhujapidasana, a pose which serves as a foundation for firefly (Titibasana) and which requires open hips and strong arms. Some days, I can enter the pose with something approaching ease; everything just seems to click into place and I can even lift my legs into a sort of firefly. On other days, I can barely lift my feet and I fall on my butt after a few moments of wobbling on my hands. This can be pretty frustrating at times. I don’t like the discomfort that comes with falling, and I also don’t like how elusive the pose has proven. But each time I attempt the pose, I have to make the decision not to allow my past attempts to color my present one. If I’m too attached to the “failed” attempts, I may be too scared to try the pose again and never figure out its intricacies. If I’m too attached to the “successful” ones, I may force myself into the pose when my muscles aren’t ready, which would mean I’d still be missing the finer points of the pose and open myself to injury. Either way, my practice suffers. Either way, I’d be too focused on “achievement” to experience the inward journey that comes with learning the subtle movements of each pose.
Our bodies aren’t exactly the same each time we approach the mat. The food we eat, the allergens we’ve absorbed, the amount of water we drink, the sleep we’ve gotten, the stress we feel — all of these things can influence and change the way we feel. So it makes sense that every pose won’t feel or look the same way every time you practice. If you feel a twinge, an urging to stop, to let up, or to go further, listen. As the saying goes, the body is an excellent teacher. It’s up to us to listen studiously and approach each pose with a mindful spirit.