When it comes to trying poses, most people fall into these categories:
1. Don't Even Try-When the teacher calls poses like Crow, Handstand, Kurmasana, they sit on the floor and watch everyone else. They don't try to modify. They don't try to prep for it. They just sit down and look.
2. Try The Pose But Mentally Gave Up Before Their Body Starts Moving
3. Work on the Pose But Are Bound by Old Fears & Erroneous Assumptions- this is probably about the majority of the people who chose to work on the pose. Instead of listening to the teachers instruction, they launch into what they think they are supposed to do to reach the pose. For instance, instead of controlling handstand & using the steps given by the instructor, they flail themselves into it.
4. Actually Listen To the Teacher & Follow Their Instruction-This group is the smallest
When it comes to trying over and over and failing....over and over, most people fall into these categories:
1. Convince Themselves That This Pose Is Not For Their Body Type-this is the #1 cop out for Ashtanga Yoga bar none and is inaccurate 99% of the time.
2. Quit Yoga-This is the majority of the population
3. Avoidance- They avoid those poses all together or switch to a yoga that does not use those poses.
4. Develop Animosity, Fear, Hatred Towards Those Poses But Keep Practicing.
5. Embrace the Challenge & Keep Trying
How To Break Through Your "Bad Poses"
Become a Good Cheater: One of my favorite yoga teachers, Tanner Bazemore at Y2 Yoga where I also work on the weekends, gave some awesome advice this weekend. Tanner said that the difference between the people in school who were in the accelerated learning classes and those in the regular classes was that they were better cheaters. Instead of taking a straight path to knowledge they used resources around them that gave them the answers. They talked to people who understood the subject. They looked up the answers on Google, You Tube and other resources. They used unconventional methods to find what they were looking for.
Video Below: Tanner doing Handstand in a Sun Salute
He also talked about studying with people who have mastered and understand the poses. Tanner wanted to learn handstand and had been given mediocre information from yoga teachers. He worked on it for years without making much progress. Then he did a workshop with Ido Portal, who is not a yoga teacher but an expert on body weight training and body mechanics, and learned how to do the pose after a few sessions.
Video Below of Ido Portal
Be Inquisitive: Seek to learn everything you can about that pose.
Approach It From A Different Perspective- My favorite Ashtanga teacher, Kino MacGregor is a master at this. She often gives people little exercises to do to get them closer to the poses. The exercises are more accessible and this helps people to feel like they are making progress. The exercises help people to learn the skills necessary for the full pose. The only thing left to do is to integrate it into their practice.
For instance, I cannot get into a full lotus from an inversion without using my hands. The first pose in Ashtanga where this comes up is Forearm Balance. My Forearm balance is shaky all by itself, even much adding a lotus to it. Kino took a pose that I already felt comfortable in , headstand, and instructed me to work on it from there. Then I combine that knowledge with my less steady pose Forearm Balance.
Because I am not concentrating on holding myself up in headstand, I can take my awareness to the mechanics of the legs instead. This trains my body and creates new neural pathways in my mind so that when I go upside down, my body immediately knows what to do with the legs.
If you have a basic understanding of anatomy & yoga alignment principles, the easiest way to do this is to break the pose down to its smallest parts. Think about the muscles and skills that need to be developed in order to do the pose. Then come up with exercises that develop them.
Another way is to attend workshops. Pay attention to the breakdown sessions & add those exercises to your daily yoga practice.
Video Below: Kino Showing Creative Ways To Access Tittibhasana
Don't Avoid- In order to do handstand you have to work on handstand. There is no magic fairy dust. If you never practice a complex pose, you will never be able to do it. Period.
Be Playful & Enjoy the Journey-It is just yoga. When you are able to do the pose, angels won't sing and a million dollar check won't arrive in your mailbox. You might get the next Ashtanga pose but that one will be hard too. In order to keep yourself off the emotional roller coaster, you have to learn how to enjoy the journey. Have fun with it. Practice non attachment. Work on the pose a few times then let it go.
Know That Poses Point To Bigger Lessons-Unlike gymnastics, the purpose of yoga is not to do pretty things with your body & win medals for it. The purpose is liberation over the ego. The poses help cultivate the ability to be unmessable with. A yogi can be calm in any situation, has control over their emotions, recognizes that they are not their thoughts or body & that they are one with everything in the Universe.
Instead of looking at the pose as a physical hurdle, become aware of the mental and spiritual lessons. Difficult poses teach you perseverance, how to be happy in tough situations, how to process your emotions, and how to adapt.