If I had one thing to change in the yoga world, it would be for students to trust the wisdom of what their bodies are telling them. I even have students shy away from doing yoga videos since they want the teacher to see them in order to “correct their pose”. Doing a home practice with videos is such a gift. All of your props are there, no one is watching you so you have full freedom to enjoy your practice and time alone is important in our lives. Dedicating a time for yourself per week and realizing you are important enough to hold that time for yourself is powerful. It can lead to an increase in overall self-care, willpower and benefit you in more ways than I could list here.
Getting back to the question at hand…Am I doing the pose correctly?
Short answer…Please trust yourself, your instincts. Listen to your body. There is a ton of gray area in yoga alignment. There is no “wrong”. Our brains love to label things but yoga is about getting “out of your head” and connecting with the body, the breath and the heart, how you truly feel. As long as you feel safe and stable in the pose, then you are doing it correctly.
Longer answer…First, I do LOVE getting yoga questions from my students and encourage as many as possible. I am in a constant state of learning myself so with those questions, I continue to refine my cues and varieties offered to promote more confidence in my students.
The main question to ask yourself is “what are you feeling in the pose”? Do you feel a sense of stability and control? Or do you feel like you were struggling to hold the shape and it was unsafe or unsteady? Do you have a sense of ease which allowed your breath to flow without strain? Or were you tensing up in your shoulders, neck, even tightness felt in the eyes and the breath responded in suit?
Let’s take Malasana or Garland Squat as an example
- Should my heels touch the floor?
- How far apart should my feet be?
- Should my feet face straight forward or a little angled outward?
- This pose is a deep hip flexion, knee flexion and dorsiflexion for the ankle. It also has an affect on the upper body as well. The stomach is compressed by the thighs. This is not an easy pose to do by the way. So the question is, how does your body feel in the shape? Could you find some ease and actually stay in the pose for maybe 4 rounds of breath? If not, play around and switch it up. Think of it as a choose your own adventure approach to the shape.
- Sit on chair with blocks under feet
- Sit on a couple of blocks
- Keep your heels grounded but lift your hips higher in space
- Place a folded edge of a blanket under your heels
- Play around with one leg at a time
- Add movement…Shift your weight over and lift your heel high
- The point is, there is no “wrong”. All of these shapes are the pose called Malasana. If more than one feels good to you, add variety in your practice which both your body and mind will appreciate. At the end of the day, if none of these work, then skip it! There are SO many other poses to do.
If I do nothing else as a teacher. My gift to my students is to empower them to play within the shape. Test out different ways to place your hands or feet. Try out different props – strap, block, bolster, chair, wall support. And then listen. Listen to the deep internal wisdom of your body. Take time in the shape to actually feel it. If you feel safe and stable to do so, close your eyes while in the pose. Focus on the breath.
There is no “wrong” in yoga. If you are respecting your unique and beautiful anatomy, then you are doing your practice correctly.
My role as a teacher is to provide you with a creative variety of shapes and prop usage within an intelligently sequenced practice based on anatomy. I am also there to teach you what to notice in the shape and some anatomy information so you can make an informed and confident decision in your practice on what to do. I am there to guide you into a holistic practice which includes more than just the physical poses (connection to breath, mudras, intention setting, yoga philosophy, etc) I am also there to encourage you to stay with a consistent practice and to enjoy it. Yoga is a true gift to yourself.
If you wish to continue on a yoga journey with me, I have videos on Vimeo which can be rented, purchased or there is an unlimited monthly subscription as well. I encourage you to stay in contact with me for any questions (even anatomy ones). My email is ReikiEnergyYoga@gmail.com.
Thank you and take care…Carol Bailey