Advancing Asana Practice
by Julee Yew-Crijns
Do you remember your first yoga class? Or even those first few months or years of yoga practice? As cliché as it may sound, I guess I would describe it as the beginning of a journey of discovery. Feeling your body in a different way- in fact feeling every part of your body- some parts that you never even knew existed!
In modern life, we are so accustomed to external stimuli that going inwards feels like a trip to a far away planet, but one that is most beautiful, & one that you absolutely fall in love with. And of course, like all love affairs, it’s a roller coaster ride with many highs and some lows- where we take stock, ask questions, reevaluate our aspirations.
I feel like yoga practice is very much like a romantic relationship- you have the honeymoon period, a period of really getting to know each other; the beautiful and the not so beautiful and then a ripening that is so sweet when you know each other so well that you know how to support each other’s happiness. So in our yoga practice, we have that initial discovery- we literally fall in love with ourselves (not an ego thing, but also lets not use that word like it’s the devil himself) Following that, there is that realization – “my body is so this and that”, but equally, “wow! My body is so strong and amazing”, etc. And then (after some YEARS) you get to know it so well, you know how you feel, how to make yourself feel better, how to move like a rock star!
But like all romantic love, this is not the moment to stop growing and learning, because we are always changing. If we stop putting the effort into our relationship, it is likely that we will lose that space of happiness and contentment. Contentment is not a place of non-activity. Rather, it a place you have found that you are happy to be in, but to remain there, you have to put in the work. The work may change. To remain feeling content does not necessarily mean doing the same thing over and over again. This works for some people but not everyone. So what works for you? You will know if you are doing the right thing for yourself but evaluating if you are feeling that same joy.
For me, this is what advancing my practice is about. Although I have practiced for many years, I have discovered that the practice never stops revealing connections to my body and inner self. Through my practice, I am experiencing change every day. This is both very powerful and humbling. Let me make it clear though, that I am not experiencing these things just from advance poses. I feel the change in my warrior 2 all the time.
But whilst feeling the change in poses that I am familiar with keep me grounded in my body, advancing my practice continues to help me break barriers that cause me to move from my contentment spot. Advancing my practice is not about doing advance poses. It is about doing that thing you did when you first walked into a yoga class – remember how scary that was? And equally how empowering that experience was? Very soon, you were not afraid to walk into any yoga studio in the world. That is what it is all about – breaking barriers that we unconsciously create every day.
If you have been practicing for a while, do not be afraid to walk into your first level 2-3 class. And if you found after that it was not for you, at least you gave it a try, or you will never know. It is not as hard or as crazy as you think and it is ok to leave it for another day if it was not right. There is no ego and there is no judgement.