Yoga used to be about sitting in stillness and finding acceptance with the present. Instead we are becoming more fascinated and, frankly, obsessed with going further and pushing harder. Level 1/2 classes are now more closely resembling 2’s; Level 2’s now look like 2/3’s; and 2/3’s like 3/4’s. What happens with this process is that we are getting further and further from our foundation. Yes, the physically advanced postures are sexy and alluring, but many people are jumping (no pun intended) right into learning them, without first establishing the most basic elements of any posture -- alignment and breath. In my practice of Ashtanga, we work on very intense physical postures; however, the process of the practice is that we first learn a number of more “basic” postures that help lay the groundwork for the later more “advanced” poses. Without this foundation, the later poses can be extremely risky and unstable. Like any architectural structure, each earlier posture lays a brick that forms the solid ground upon which we build the next posture. Intelligently sequenced flow classes, such as the YogaWorks method and Annie Carpenter’s Smart Flow style, achieve this same effect.
Now let’s be clear, I am not knocking learning nor teaching handstands, scorpion, or any of these delicious inversions. These are phenomenal postures and hugely integral to the practice of yoga. I am apart of this handstand culture and just as guilty! I am just saying that we need to be careful that we are not supersizing our yoga practices as we have supersized our meals. That we should remind ourselves that spending a few moments with both feet on the ground, in stillness and just breathing, is truly the advanced practice. And I think yoga goddess, Judith Lasater, put it best in a 1980 Yoga Journal, when she began to foresee the "more is more" phenomenon, and said “probably the most difficult ‘asana’ of them all is standing on one’s own feet, questioning and analyzing for oneself the deeper meaning of asana, yoga, and life.”