Friday, April 25, 2008

Moderation in all things...

Nadine of Just Breathe left a nice comment last week, in which she decried the dangers of "attainment yoga." I really like that term--attainment yoga--it's so evocative and describes exactly a practice that is all about results rather than process. It's such an easy trap to fall into; I hear it often from my students ("I really wish my head would touch my knee") and myself ("It would be so cool to be able to drop back into Urdhva Danurasana [Wheel Pose]"). In longing to achieve some difficult pose(or even impossible, depending on one's body), we force and strain and over-do and completely lose the whole point of a practice.

And yet, there's something to be said for developing your yoga skills. Suzi of Yoga Like Salt (I wish we'd see more of her posts--such a sensible, thougtful writer) has a really nice New Year's article about setting a yoga goal for the year and working to reach it: Yoga Incrementalism, she calls it. I think this is a good approach. Asana practice is a physical journey, after all, and asking a bit more of our bodies as we do the work makes sense. Breaking down a pose and figuring out what part requires strength, what part requires flexibility and how to achieve those ends is a reasonable way to deepen your understanding of the work of yoga.

So, I guess it boils down to moderation. Work to improve your practice physically, but make sure to be respectful of your body's ability. Just because it looks good or difficult in a picture, doesn't mean it's an appropriate action for you. And don't forget that there is as much work to be done mentally as there is physically--always practice vairagya (non-attachment) with the superficial stuff; the head on the knee is icing, tipping the pelvis and getting a good stretch in the backs of the legs is the cake.

Here's to increments; a dense, rich asana cake; and moderation in all things (especially, moderation--says the husband)!


shinyyoga said...

hi brenda - i love this post and would love to post it on my yoga site.. of course linking back to you..

would that be possible at all??

very relevant as we're entering winter here in australia and i can see students getting frustrated their bodies are different to when they are in a humid summer! x

Brenda Plakans said...

Of course you can post this. I spent some time trying to think about how to encourage students get past the "attainment" mind-set. I'm glad you think this will help.

Winter, sigh...I tell ya, I am so glad ours is finally over (I think). I really don't need to see snow again until November...

Yoga Chick said...

Wonderful post, thank you. It is easy to get caught up in our physical practice during class and I have recently started to practice more on my own. I appreciate your thoughts on moderation and I try to use this approach more often.

Kelly C. said...

wonderful wonderful post. i couldn't agree more! i see a lot of *attainment yoga* in my classes in seattle, and i'm really trying to bring on the bramacharya, if you know what i mean! adding a dose of playfulness helps me. :)
love your blog.

Megz said...

Enjoying your blog...I just started my second session at a local "all-Anusara" yoga studio.
The practice is really making a difference in my everyday life...and mostly, my attitude.
Here's to great yoga!

Nadine Fawell said...

Awesome post, Brenda!
I have missed visiting you semi-regularly, but home internet is fianlly sorted!

Thanks for the link, too. Now if I can just follow your advice. Ahem

YogaSuzi said...

Brenda, that was sweet of you. (I saw this after the other post...) It's nice to know I'm missed. Alas, I've just been busy and Yoga Like Salt has suffered. In March, I took a full-time position with our local AIDS food bank ( ... it's kept me busy and I'm not doing as much writing as I'd like. However, the project isn't abandoned, just temporarily stalled. I have essay ideas brewing in my little yoga head!