The other day in class one of my students, in her first Warrior 1 of class, was straining to stay in the pose. I looked down at her feet and noticed they were so far apart (from front to back) that she was struggling to have solid footing. As we continued with class, in the next Warrior 1, I went over towards her and suggested she step her back foot in a little closer to her front foot. We carried on with class and afterwards, we got to talking.
She mentioned she felt much better with a shorter stance but thought she was supposed to step out really far from the back foot. We discussed how a longer base is indeed a more flexible pose but with that, you lose stability and ultimately, it’s up the each person to figure out what feels best to them.
Every yoga pose is like that; a balance between intuition and intellect. You feel like you “know” what the pose should look like but then you try to replicate what’s in your mind and you run into a block; either your body won’t go that way or you try it and you start to get feedback that with a small shift, maybe you’ll find relief, but your mind tells you then you’d be doing it wrong. What to do?
The intellect of yoga is more of an absolute thing. Knees go over ankles in Warriors, feet are hip width apart in a forward fold. But then we practice from our mats and we’re faced with the life story in our bodies that’s created inflexibility and in some others, more permanent physical challenge. Does this mean we’re doing it wrong? Of course not.
The practice of yoga is a balance between the right and left brain; intellect and intuition; book learning and practical experience. But sometimes in our zest to “do things right” we often forget that the voice inside us could be right. It doesn’t mean that will be the expression of our Warrior 1 forever, but it might mean that’s our expression today.
When I work with kids, I see the full expression of intuition in action. Kids hear what you suggest for a pose but then they do what they can. They’re creative, alive, light, humble, open hearted and funny. They laugh at themselves and sometimes say out loud, “I can’t do that!” They’re honest and they accept many times that they way they express the pose is just their own unique illustration.
As adults it get harder to do that. We’re trying so hard to keep it all together and we want to approach each physical activity with the same intellectual zeal we apply to our work or academic careers. But yoga’s not like that; it’s a balance between what we know in our mind and what we feel in our body. Balancing between those two is our own unique expression of the pose.
So, the next time you’re in class and that voice inside gives you a suggestion, listen to it!