The Struggle is Real

MUST GET POSE!!!!! MUST GET DEEEEEEP IN POSE!!!! MUST DO HARD POSE LONGER THAN ANYONE ELSE!!!!

I see it all too often. People’s inner “Hulk” comes to the surface.

  1. A student is DETERMINED to get into a pose.

  2. They push, force, shake, stop breathing and BOOM…

  3. They kind of sort of get the pose!!!

  4. Panting and confident they move on to the next thing with no real awareness of what happened in the body / and whether what they did was actually good for them

  5. They do the same thing again 10 minutes later, and in the next class, and next week and next month

Every time I see it happen I cringe a little. Even through verbal cuing / 1 on 1 check ins - its impossible to stop and correct it all. In a “silver bullet” culture - where pills, procedures, and quick fixes are the way of the future - many people have lost the critical skill of working patiently, and diligently over time and witnessing the safe, subtle and lasting transformation that can happen through a well-balanced yoga practice.

I would say that 1/2 of my job as an asana teacher is teaching postures and the other half is helping students in the sophisticated art of finding that balance between effort and ease. What can we look for in students that indicate struggle? Tune in for things like shaking in the body, clenched jaws, stealing from one area of the body to make things look deeper (think hinging at the lumbar spine as the sole source of a back bend), or held breath… to name a few.

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? BECAUSE WE’VE SPEND YEARS - IF NOT DECADES - CONFUSING OUR BODIES NATURAL DESIGN!

Recently, I read “Move Your DNA” by Katy Bowman. And while I’ve been on the “move smarter not harder” train for a while now - there is a really important idea in her book that all teachers of movement should try to understand: If you spend most of your life challenging your very design by preventing your body from moving in the way it was designed to move (walking, running, climbing, squatting, with bare feet on diverse surfaces - all day long) and then have a life that limits that potential by wearing shoes and sitting a whole heck of a lot, then no amount of personal ass kicking - performed for an hour every other day - is going to be able to bring you into lasting "good shape.” Forcing your body into a state of “struggle” in these classes or activities is likely (over time) to result in injury or pain.

AS WE ADVANCE IN OUR PRACTICE, DON’T WE WANT TO BE MORE SOPHISTICATED THAN THAT?

I’ve said for years that the hardest pose in yoga is patience. Be skilled and patient enough to work with your body and notice the subtle nature of the current condition - coaxing your tissues mindfully towards change. Be patient enough to also get your nervous system on board by incorporating smooth and steady breathing that moves your diaphragm in your body. Be patient enough to find the edge of effort and ease (sthira sukham asanam). Be patient with the parts of your body that say “no, not yet” - because you will also notice the parts that are saying “ahh, yes, like that!” Doing so will set you up for a practice that lasts a lifetime.