On the subject of teacher training, one thing I valued from my yoga teacher training studies was how much more confident I felt in my practice. Now, I think that would have still come over the years, but focusing on the poses, learning about alignment and really understanding what worked well for me – and talking with my fellow trainees about what worked for them and why – is something that still affects my practice. My experience and growth in understanding the poses has strengthened my practice.
By framing this as a strong practice, I don’t mean the challenging or “tricked out” poses, so to speak. Now certainly there are times when I can go deeper into a crescent lunge or a Warrior II, or feel more controlled and even lighter in a chaturanga. I find that can happen after a more regular practice, tapping into the actual physical strength I’ve built at that time. But there are also times if I’ve been away from my mat for whatever reason and those poses feel more challenging than another week. In those weeks, my practice isn’t any less strong.
The strength I’m talking about here is the ability to know the difference and to account for that in one’s flow. When in those classes where poses may feel challenging that day, I can adjust: I can modify, use props or sink back into child’s pose to take a beat. Or two. There’s a personal strength that comes from listening to the body and, in essence, standing up for it.
I count myself fortunate in that many of my teachers will often invite us to modify and take a pause throughout class if it serves us. They’ve also from time to time reminded us in classes to meet the body where it is that day – just because we did something one way last week, doesn’t mean we can do it the exact same way this week.
However, I have taken other classes where I haven’t heard that reminder. And this is really where the kind of strength I’m talking about can really come into play. Just because a child’s pose isn’t offered, doesn’t mean I can’t take it if I need that pause, that short break/breath with my hips to my heels. I can stand up for that request and take it. Is this strength? A kind of flexibility or resiliency? I like to think it’s all of those things. I know only that for me, it’s a really good feeling when I leave class and know that I took what I needed.
Coming back to the title of this post: What does a strong practice mean to me? It means taking what I need – including rest.
This is the part of a series of posts for The Mat Yoga Studio, sharing my thoughts and observations as a student only. The views and opinions are my own experience.