For most yoga postures, there is a beginner, intermediate and advanced variation of the pose. And if you’ve been practicing yoga for years, odds are that in most classes you’ll opt for the more advanced variation. Simply because you can.
But how often do you go back and revisit the basics of the poses? How often do you choose to practice the beginner version? As an instructor, I make a point of regularly reviewing beginner variations and basic postures with my students regardless of how advanced my classes are or how long people have been practicing.
Just as ballerinas don’t stop doing plies when they’re able to do an arabesque en pointe, a yogi shouldn’t stop practicing the basic fundamentals of yoga just because she/he can do headstands, handstands or the splits.
Here are four reasons why it’s important to revisit the basics of your yoga practice, irrespective of how long you’ve been taking yoga.
When we’ve been practicing a certain pose for a long time, it’s easy to lose our technique, get lazy and let the basic structure of a pose slip without realizing it. By getting back to the basics or beginner version of a pose, we become acutely aware of the form of a pose. By bringing our attention to the tiniest details, such as tweaking a foot position slightly, we can deepen our advanced variations because we have secured our foundation for the pose.
Changing Body, Changing Practice
As our life circumstances change, so do our bodies. Whether it’s from aging, injury, childbirth, changes in our fitness level, diet, emotional or mental shifts, our yoga practice is affected by alterations in our bodies. By reconnecting with the basics of our yoga practice, we are reminded of one of the great yoga tenets: Accepting ourselves and our bodies where we are at right now.
Letting Go of the Ego
It’s often humbling to go back to basics. Many of my students comment that it’s mentally challenging to move into a beginner pose (which they consider “easier”) when they know they can practice a more advanced version. This exercise in letting go of the ego is valuable — yoga is not a competition against yourself or those in your class. And, more importantly, my students are often surprised at how deeply they feel the physical effects of “beginner” poses the following day.
Reconnecting With Your Practice
Whichever style of yoga you practice, the philosophy of yoga and the mental, physical, spiritual benefits of the postures are intertwined. Whether it’s the reminder of what lies at the root of your yoga practice spiritually, whether recognizing minor adjustments in form makes your advanced practice stronger, or whether breaking your poses apart allows you to see certain postures with a fresh perspective, revisiting the fundamentals helps you reconnect with the depth and breadth of your practice.
Annabel Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer, runner, yoga and Pilates teacher and a mother of two young children. Her online yoga, Pilates and meditation studio is at http://www.annabelfitzsimmons.ca/.