When you looked at the 2 versions of this pose what happened? Did you immediately start critiquing or looking for signs of which one was correct and which was wrong? Did you judge my body shape? Did you measure your body shape to mine?
May these questions give you an opportunity to do a little self enquiry. There are no right or wrong answers, just opportunities to get to know ourselves.
Neither of these poses are right or wrong. To quote one of my favourite teachers “it depends”. It depends what you are looking for, it depends what benefit you are hoping to gain from the pose, it depends on your body shape – particularly your bone structure (it really is not always about “flexibility”), it depends on how you are feeling in the moment…
The top picture I am engaging muscles and drawing my hips out of the ground. My stomach, chest, entire arms, shoulders and legs are all engaged. I am very active in this pose.
The bottom picture I am just hanging out. My arms are pretty much at rest, shoulders also. Slight engagement in the stomach/torso for stability. Legs are soft, heels resting on the ground.
If the purpose I am setting for this pose is to connect with muscle engagement, then the pose on top is more correct for me. If the purpose for this pose is for me to hang out a while just connecting with my head below my heart in an inversion without too much “work” then I might take the second picture.
I spent much of my yoga practice expecting my teachers to be the expert on anatomy and how exactly I should place my limbs. There are many different styles and teachers. Many of my teachers would teach cues that would strip away my faith in my ability to keep myself safe. Many cues were contradictory, outdated or based entirely on one type of body shape. I placed full faith in my teachers as if they were perfect, incapable of mistake or incomplete knowledge. I was often so afraid of getting the angle and alignment wrong that I stopped having an internal exploration. Yes, I got stronger, yes I got more flexible, but I had no connection to exactly what my muscles were doing. Somewhere inside I had this little nagging voice, it was my body sending me messages trying to get me to listen. I would get minor injuries but did not trust myself to be the authority on my own anatomy. I took endless courses on anatomy, most of which had conflicting information. What to do?!
I took a training with Jules Mitchell Yoga on biomechanics that flipped my theories on anatomy upside down and backwards. At first I went through a grieving process, everything that I learned, everything that I had practiced, everything I was teaching seemed all wrong. Eventually I came to the freedom of autonomy. If I listened to my body I could protect myself from injury AND learn how to connect fully with my muscles. Now my practice is an entirely inward journey. Listening, exploring, learning. I take all the wonderful things my teachers taught me over the years with gratitude – even the lessons I learned about not having faith in myself – and I leave what doesn’t work for me.
I invite you to take an inward journey with me. Don’t take my words while teaching as “gospel”. I am not perfect. I am not a saint. I am just another muddled person trying to figure out how best to settle that inner critic, find self acceptance and balance myself. Take what you need from my words and leave what you don’t. Put your foot in an entirely different position if that feels correct for you, do an entirely different pose, drop down for a break… have your own journey on your mat. Let’s explore together!
-FUBAR yogi, shellyQ