I first started practicing Yoga in 2007 or 2008. I was introduced to it via my cousin, who had started attending a beginner’s Kripalu class just down the street from me. After the first class, I was completely hooked. It became my Saturday morning ritual: 9am Kripalu Yoga class, 11am Farmer’s Market visit (in the summer) or Health Food Store visit in the winter. At the time, I was in a stressful and toxic work environment, and that Saturday morning class let me release the awfulness of the work week so I could truly enjoy my weekend.
I came to yoga from a dance background, so even though I was years past my last grand j’eté, I still held on to much of my flexibility. I rejoiced in the movement, and my arms and legs loved being able to float through space once again. One of the downsides to having such a background, however, is you know what your body was capable of at one point in time, so you naturally assume it is still capable of those same magnificent feats.
I was never going to be a prima ballerina, and the flexibility required of me in those evening classes at the school gym was pretty minimal in comparison to what most dancers consider necessary these days. But I held my own.
So, of course at 33 I assumed I would have the exact same amount of flexibility as I did at 18.
Ha. Ha ha.
I have practiced yoga on and off since 2007, sometimes very diligently, sometimes very rarely. Within these ten years I have completed a Yoga Teacher Training and come to some simple truths about the asanas we practice as part of the greater Yoga tradition. The main of which is: we are all susceptible to our Ego. This is followed closely by: sometimes less really is more.
Up until very recently (and by very, I mean the last year) I staunchly refused to use any kind of yoga prop. I poo-poo’d them. I saw their value…. For everyone else. If they were part of the class, I would pretend to use them. But I was a dancer (no matter how former), and I was flexible. I did not need such things. I was better than that.
Again, I say ha. Ha ha.
After ten years, I am finally accepting the fact that there are some poses that my body just does not appreciate.
Whether it be because my personal anatomy literally will not allow me the fullest expression of a pose or simply because it doesn’t feel useful to me, discovering that pushing my way through an asana just isn’t freaking worth it.
I always used to assume that because I could do a back bend in high school, I should therefore always do full Wheel or at least the deepest Bridge pose I could manage. No more. I have found that with Supported Bridge, not only can I let go and actually enjoy the pose, it takes that Ego of mine out of the picture completely.
As I move into a yoga practice that exists out of my home, I am less willing to try for poses which I know do little except feed my Ego and instead gravitate more towards the poses my body is asking for: longer holds, gooey vinyasas, fewer poses, deeper twists. I have also found the block to be invaluable at aiding me in these goals.
Just because a pose is supported or otherwise assisted, does not mean it is invaluable or ineffective. Just the opposite! In listening to what my body needs (finally), I have discovered a practice that is working for me.
I encourage each and every one of you to not be afraid of the props offered in your yoga classes. Make the most of them! You will be surprised at how much they can deepen your practice.