Asanas in a yoga practice seem to be what many focus on – getting that insta-perfect shot or pushing your body to strive for that perfect pose. When I began yoga, like many others, I thought it was only about the poses, and maybe a little bit of meditation. I would strive to attain a perfect split, go for hot yoga to enable my body to do more and get into poses with ease. During my yoga journey, i have been fortunate to yet meet with any serious yoga injuries, but I have heard of people who pushed themselves beyond their limits to attain a pose and in return, sustain some form of damage.
Besides learning that there is more to yoga than the Asanas, I have learnt the importance of going back to basics to train the mind and body to prepare for more challenging poses is necessary during one’s asana practice. Yoga is not all about the inversions such as headstands, handstands and pincha, but also the basic poses like virabhadrasana, udhva mukha svanasana, ardo mukhua svanasana and even paschimottanasana – I mentioned basic, and not easy, because if done with intention and correctly, you would know these fundamental poses are not easy.
In a Virabhadrasana B, for example, what may seem like a simple squat with arms parallel to the ground, is actually a powerful stretch to the groins, legs and chest, when correctly executed. Moreover, it helps to train up one’s stamina, thighs and glutes. I’ve found myself breaking into much sweat when staying in this pose for 5 long breaths, and definitely feeling those muscles working hard. What stands out for me even more about these simple poses really work some muscle you otherwise would not necessarily work out such as your inner thighs! Asanas have a way of stretching and strengthening at the same time, and i’ve found it a great way to gain fitness at my own pace.
It is the basic poses that serve as a foundation for different inversion poses. It is through practising the dolphin pose and holding it there for a while, which will build the back muscles you need to come into a headstand with little protest. It is through paschimottanasana that allows your body to be flexible enough to walk your legs in close to your body before raising up into a Pincha.
With that, I often remind myself: to perfect the simpler postures before mastering the challenging ones; to accept my body as it is and the shape my body forms with every pose, which will be different from the person next to me; “Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you” – B.K.S Iyengar