I really like to teach advanced poses in my classes. I find that, when explained in detail and with demonstration, most students find advanced poses pretty accessible. At the very least, they usually feel confident that they will find themselves in the pose one day.
Recently, I was teaching flying pigeon, which is usually challenging for most of my students. During one particular class, a student, who was feeling defeated, said to me, "I don't feel like I will ever get this pose! What is the secret?" I responded, "You have to practice! You have to really want to get the pose." Without realizing that my words may have offended her, or anyone else, I continued with class.
After class, this student approached me and told me that my response hurt her feelings. She said that she felt like I was calling her lazy, as if she does not actually want to ever do the pose. I was shocked. Of course, I did not mean that at all. I meant that, if you really want to do a pose, any pose, you have to really want to do it. You have to practice it frequently, all the time. Depending on what the pose is, you may also need to do other things frequently to prepare the body for the pose.
For example, if flying pigeon is the pose you really want to do, maybe you are struggling with it because your hips happen to be very tight. Maybe your upper body strength is just a little bit weak. Maybe your core could be a little stronger. Perhaps the pose just plain terrifies you and you generally lack the confidence to truly try the pose. Maybe it is some combination of all of these things that is preventing you from finding success in the pose.
I will never forget the first that I saw someone do pincha mayurasana (forearm stand). It was just about three years ago, in June 2012, and it was love at first sight. For months, I practiced forearm stand as often as I could. I found a little corner in my tiny one bedroom apartment where I could practice every day. I sometimes practiced it so often that I would have rug burns on my elbows from the carpet in my apartment!
To this day, I love forearm stand. My relationship with this pose grows stronger each day. Even when I hate the pose, I still love it. My favorite part of practicing forearm stand is seeing how it has changed for me so much overtime. I love feeling my body evolve, becoming stronger each time I step onto my mat.
The pose used to make me feel weak, sloppy, insecure, and nervous, but no matter how bad I felt in the pose, I kept practicing it. I used to heavily rely on a wall to get into the pose, and for the longest time, thought that I would never be able to do forearm stand in the middle of the room.
I can proudly say that, after three years of consistent practice, I am capable of doing forearm stand, unassisted and without a wall. I now feel strong, powerful, and confident each time I am in the pose.
Without ever really knowing, it turns out that consistency was what I was searching for in my practice.
"Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion."
Yoga is my passion. It's my career. It's my hobby. It's a huge part of my life.
I love forearm stand. It is my favorite pose to practice. It is the relationship that no matter what, I never give up on.
You have to choose what to work hard for. You have to decide how you want to spend your time and your energy. You have to decide what is important to you and how important is it to you.
As a serious runner for many years, my hamstrings are very tight. They are probably the muscle that holds me back the most in my yoga practice. In the years I have been practicing yoga, I have seen improvement in my hamstring flexibility, but it's very minor and very slow.
Hanumanasana (full split) is a pose that seems nearly impossible for me. The flexibility that's required to be in the pose is just not something that my body is capable of right now.
Hanumanasana is a pose that annoys me. It feels completely unnatural. And most of the time, I purposely avoid practicing it.
I may never have a great relationship with hanumanasana, but it's mostly because I don't practice it. I don't care about it. Until I truly care about achieving the pose, I will find other ways to improve the flexibility in my hamstrings. One day, I have no doubt, hanumanasana could be a pose that I truly love.
I put a lot of trust into my intuition. I try my best to really listen to what it's telling me. Right now my intuition says, "You love forearm stand? It's time to start practicing handstand!" It also says, "Practice patience."
Decide what is important to you. If you want to do forearm stand, do it! Practice it every day. How can you expect to do something well if you never practice it?
The key to success is defined by two words: Practice. Patience.
Everything in life is a choice. Choose to practice. Choose to be patient. Or choose not to practice. And choose not to be patient.
Either way, take responsibility for your actions. At the end of the day, you'll find the time or you'll find an excuse.
"Practice and all is coming." - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Practice as often as you possibly can. I promise, you will not be disappointed. After all, practice is the best of all instructors.
P.S. I'd love to hear about your success with something you practice frequently -- yoga related or not! Leave me a comment to share your story.