Going the Distance
I've noticed that many of my students who are becoming stronger and capable of more difficult asana are getting trapped in the thought pattern that, by pushing harder and harder in their practice they will become better yogis. That if they always take the hardest version of the pose that they will continue to improve. In a way, that makes sense. We do need to push ourselves in order to exit our comfort zone and grow stronger and more flexible.
Here's the problem though, when we see all of those pictures of yogis doing crazy poses on Instagram (which are awesome and totally inspiring), we don't know the prep work that that teacher may have done... or the pain that they were in the following day because of the prep work that they didn't do. And those poses are not part of their daily routine, they are just the ones that look pretty! What yoga teachers practice regularly is generally exactly what they bring to you in class.
Bodies don't really love to be pushed to their limit all of the time (Google Crossfit injuries for more evidence of that). Sometimes your body just wants you to respect its boundaries, explore it's limitations, and move with a healthy sense of gratitude for where you're at right now. If you ever watch a yoga teacher do their own practice, sometimes it's like your grandma is next to you practicing. We're often so focused on staying healthy and strong so that we can teach two more classes after the class that we're taking, that we skip vinyasas or only go to about 80% of a stretch because that is what our body is asking of us.
I've been using the metaphor of a marathon this week. It doesn't feel good to sign up for a marathon, never train, sprint the first mile, feel like you're going to die, and then quit. There is no satisfation in that! Similarly in yoga, there is no satisfaction in adding three push-ups to every vinyasa, flinging your body into poses, only to injur yourself or spend the end of the class in child's pose because you pushed too hard in the beginning of class.
So take this week to notice if you constantly have to take the hardest version of every pose, even if the teacher hasn't offered that version because they want you to warm up first. Why might that be? And ask yourself, why is it that you're constantly stuggling to make everything more difficult? Remember yoga is a lifelong practice, let's make sure we make it to the finish line.