Mastering Asana: Right and Wrong Form

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.

Larry King


How we practice matters

What is the proper form of a yoga pose? This is a question that readily surfaces from my students. The answer I give is simple – I am not sure. The reason for my nebulous response is not to be obnoxious but instead to reflect back onto the student what it is they are experiencing and let their experience guide them into the form. In one of the ancient texts on Hatha Yoga, it is said that there are as many yoga poses as there are grains of sand on earth. This does not mean that the ancient Sadhus of India conceptualized billions of different postures. What it means is that we are all different and each of us holds our own individualized form. To take it one step further, not only do we each hold our own form, but on a moment to moment basis that form is changing.

Close your eyes and picture a pose you are working on. Any pose. What does it look like in your mind. Now ask yourself, is it you or someone else doing the pose? I have found that for most students, when they try and render the perfect posture in their head, it is not them who they see – it is someone from class, a teacher or an image they saw in a magazine. The starting point of learning yoga posture practice is to properly identify the practice with ourselves. Not our idealized state but an honest, open look. With the most compassionate of hearts we must bring to light our individual limitations, cushion our limitations with our strengths and then on a moment by moment basis check back in. This is the secret to developing a healthy yoga practice that is embodied in proper form.

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