I used to attend a class called “Yoga Nerd” in New York City. Anusara junkies would gather their pocket protectors and their acute knowledge of exactly where their shoulder blades were on their backs and "open up to grace" through rhomboidal and serratus anteriorological interplay.
I loved this class.
It was during one of these Nerd sessions, however, that I had a realization.
A woman was demonstrating a reclined bound splits variation (forgive me for not knowing the exact sanskrit here.) She followed all of the teacher’s instruction and executed the posture perfectly.
Hmmm…..I thought. I have been trying to do just the regular splits for years, seeing small gains here and there. In the meantime I was executing crow to handstand and other muscly dude poses after not too much practice.
“This woman was born able to do this pose….why is that impressive?” Maybe I wanted the teacher to ask me to demonstrate an arm balance so I could get some attention? Ok probably so….but why was the class impressed by something that took little to no effort or practice?
This is not dissimilar from telling a toddler it has a beautiful smile.
I love seeing the result of consistent practice. I clap for the former runner who’s rehabbed his knee and can now sit upright after 5 years of consistent practice. I clap for the hyper-mobile woman who finally pulled it together in a half moon. The overworked practitioner that finally kept his eyes closed and didn’t check his watch during savasana deserves a standing ovation.
Ultimately each unique practitioner has some poses that are like dessert enjoyed occasionally and some that are like vitamins that should be taken daily. Otherwise we continue to overuse our strengths and overlook our weaknesses.
You will always injure what you use too much. Ask Kobe Bryant. He tore his achilles tendon doing a movement that he has done “a million times before.” You can only play to your strengths for so long.
I shouldn’t have judged the clapping for the lady in the splits. That was a dessert pose for her. It made her feel good, if only just for a little while. What i will continue to judge is if she were encouraged to make that a part of her daily routine. I have met too many people who have been hurt by going too deep in their asana practice.
So practice mostly what you are bad at ….and indulge occasionally. Make sure you earn your dessert. Practice loving the challenges just as much as what you already do well. When this happens, the Yoga is working.