I don’t believe there is a perfect way to do a posture, or someone doing a posture perfectly.
If I’m breaking some yoga commandment, so be it.
It’s a part of the reason I don’t take a ton of pictures of me doing yoga. First of all, I don’t want it to be seen as I’m saying I’m the picture of perfect yoga (nope, certainly not this gal). Second, I don’t want a “look at me” kind of vibe going on. And third, it’s not about me.
Back to this perfect posture thing.
Yoga isn’t static. It’s not a goal to be achieved. It’s not a command performance art.
It’s a relationship.
Now, we can look at it like a marriage or being related like siblings. But sometimes there’s too much obligation involved in those relationships. That implies a duty to serve or obey.
I prefer a different paradigm: “The way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.”
Inside a posture the two more more things are your mind or ego and the body part, or the breath, or the thoughts and memories.
How they behave toward each other is often quite a meat grinder of interactions.
So let’s take triangle posture (trikonasana).
A picture may already be forming in your mind of the final perfect lines of the legs and arms in straight angles. The final destination so to speak.
We could start to talk about what all of that could feel like with the hips open and the torso open to the side and what’s talking to what or how (quadriceps, obliques, gluteus medius, etc). And we could talk about the grounding actions and energetic feeling in bandhas, blah blah.
But the posture actually started with the thought of getting into the posture.
Let’s say we were in mountain posture (tadasana) with the thought of triangle.
The yoga practice begins with the thought. Do I just haphazardly under the direction or barking orders of an instructor step or stomp a foot back in preparation for the posture? Or better yet do a vinyasa before stepping a foot into position?
We’ve all been in classes where the cadence and the pace just demands a militaristic, left, right, left, right, synchronized, downright motorized body mechanic. (I have been guilty of teaching in this manner).
We may as well be puppets being yanked around on a string.
But that wouldn’t be yoga.
The yoga requires so much more of us than mimicry and rote obedience.
The yoga asks us to be present with our intention and our actions. The yoga asks for a relationship.
To step one foot back would take a deliberate thought and action.
In fact the relationship that is first established is of the mind with the body to do so with non-violence (ahimsa) and care and love. What is that relationship like? Do they get along with one another? Or do they behave like siblings in the back seat bickering, taunting, fighting?
Then the relationship with the earth is probed and explored so the rooted foot is stable and secure for the other leg to have trust and faith to lift off the earth and lengthen back. What’s that relationship like? Do we fight the ground we are standing on?
Then we get to explore how we place that lifted leg down. Does the rooted leg need to place the lifted leg sooner due to fatigue? Can we place the lifted leg down lightly? How much can we explore lengthening in the hips and inner thigh muscles as we extend and delicately place down a toe and the sole of the foot and feel the heel softly descending into a rooted secure feeling?
How did our relationship with breath help this loving and divine action manifest? What? We needed to breathe? Did we leave our breath on the train platform when we took off?
Could our mind let go of any straining and forceful thoughts to allow for this intentional expression of movement? Is our torso able to help the bottom body in this cause of rooting and lengthening in movement, continuing to express upward lift and ascension, thus stabilizing the efforts of the bottom?
What does our body do when our mind believes it’s losing balance? What does our mind do when our body actually starts a wobble or a shake?
And we haven’t even spun the foot into an angle to open the hip yet!
And we haven’t positioned the torso yet or the arms for what we believe is triangle.
This is the journey. This is the relationship.
Yoga is not the perceived final destination of a posture.
Many people call Just B Yoga and say, “Can I come even if I have a shoulder injury and I can’t spread my arms open wide?”
“I’m not sure I can do all the poses.”
“I don’t want to come because I don’t think I’ll be good at it.”
Don’t you see? That’s not the point.
That student going through the deliberate relationship of rooting and lengthening is doing just as “perfect” a triangle as any ultimate expression seen on Instagram. The student who gets their leg there and hangs out without opening the hip or opening the arms is doing just as “good” a yoga practice. Better yet, the student who laughs along the way when she/he/they notice the argument, lies and criticisms chattering in their head, is doing the closest to “perfect” yoga at all.
Even exploring our relationship with whether we ever “get there” in a posture is the yoga. What does achieving some physical expression of the posture mean to you?
What does potentially NOT getting into that physical expression mean to you?
Do you like either answer?
What might it present to you to practice?
Ultimately we learn that in the yoga we are not exploring our relationship with our body or body image per se. Yes, that’s a part of it, but such a small and superficial part.
We are exploring our relationship with our being.
We are becoming AWARE of our relationship with our being.
That’s the yoga practice. Not the posture.