I tell the following story in just about every teacher training I facilitate:
My husband's practice is quite sporadic, but he's a trooper and occasionally makes it to his mat to please me. Years ago we were taking a class together. The teacher broke down Crow Pose and then gave her students a moment to try it for themselves. My husband had tried Crow a few times but was never quite able to pick up both of his feet. In this particular class he was able to balance on his hands for the first time. He was so delighted that he very loudly said, "Check it out!" I glanced over and couldn't contain my laughter. He was so excited! He had conquered a posture he had never been able to do before.
I share this story with teachers in training because it's important to remember that students can gain a huge sense of success and satisfaction in their practice. Overcoming fears or seeing progress in ones practice can build confidence, joy, and peace. It's a powerful thing.
I catch myself regularly telling students the postures are simply postures. Through the most mundane, challenging, exciting, frustrating postures you learn about yourself, you're able to focus in, and you may be able to translate your ability to manage all the things life throws at you once you step off your yoga mat. I absolutely believe the postures are a tool. However, the postures are also feats to accomplish. Do you remember the first time you were able to lift your toes off your mat in Crow? Do you recall the first time you were able to hold Side Plank without feeling like your bottom arm was going to snap in half? Do you remember the first time you felt that indescribable buzz in Savasana?
As a new student it's so exciting to reach the next milestone. Unfortunately, as students progress in their practice those milestones become less and less. I'm definitely speaking from experience. Although I am loving my slower, more focused asana practice that has developed over the last year or so, I sometimes feel like I've hit a plateau in my physical practice. And then I proved myself wrong this morning.
There's one posture I've always wanted to get into: Visvamitrasana. It's such a beautiful posture and it's always looked like a posture I should be able to do. It's a sidebend and I LOVE sidebends. It's an arm balance and those are kind of my thing. So why, oh why can I not do a sidebending arm balance? Honestly, I just haven't been patient with myself. In my morning practice today I took my time. Visvamitrasana is a huge posture. Huge postures take time to develop.
I've gotten into Visvamitrasana in the past, but it was very wobbly and it almost seemed like a fluke. This morning I was able to do the posture a few times on each side for multiple breaths without freaking out. It felt amazing! And it reminded me what it felt like to be a new student again reaching all those big milestones for the first time. I hope I hold onto that feeling. It's important to remember what it feels like to be a beginner. It's important to remember that the postures are powerful. The postures bring a huge sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Yoga isn't just about postures, but I'm okay with recognizing their importance.