A while back I started to use a new slogan that I felt was required for certain overachievers in yoga class… “expect less!” I know the catchphrase will not win any Canadian Marketing Awards. What the slogan can do is provide an invitation to enable the natural process of adaptation to take place while practicing yoga.
Yoga practice by nature can be quite extreme. Think of some of the contortions you see Heni performing in the graphics on our window coverings here at the studio, which are beautiful inspirations but not for the beginner or intermediate practitioner. In Heni’s case, she was trained for the prestigious National Ballet of Hungary in her youth so she had some pretty awesome tools to work with in yoga.
Even ol’ grandpa is throwing down a couple of contortionist-like poses on the window coverings. For me, I had to expect less as I built a yoga foundation for 20 of the 36 years I have been practicing. I have made plenty of mistakes along the way expecting more. I encourage you to read the blog titled, “The Rip & Tear Program” that I wrote March of 2016. In the blog I describe the perils of ‘over-trying.’ Luckily I got wise and embraced ‘expect less’ before I had done too much damage
There are many in the yoga world that would lead you to believe the conquering of the next, more difficult yoga pose, is the essence of the practice. This could not be further from the truth. Yoga practitioners are too often pushed by teachers to try advanced postures that impose extreme forces on connective tissues.
Recently I have read warnings indicating avid yoga practitioners should expect to get a hip replacement later in life. Personally speaking I have NO such plans. I intend to continue to practice yoga with a safety-first approach, and I insist on making accommodations for all the different challenges my students present.
This means considerations for proper joint articulation while practicing yoga poses and considerations for the appropriate adaptation of muscle and fascia tissues over time are at the forefront of the BIM Yoga System. Suitable posture modifications and yoga prop use can be applied to scale back range of motion. This is the ‘expect less’ concept applied to the practice of yoga.
Of course most yoga students want to do as the teacher does. In my yoga instruction I purposely parse back my own range of motion in beginner classes. I will often show simplified versions of poses that will evolve into more advanced postures in future classes. Even when I show the more advanced form of a pose I normally will start with a review of the simplified version as an invitation to ‘expect less.’ This encourages students to perform yoga with variations of poses based on the beginner students’ varied abilities.
In intermediate classes I always give a range of options in my cueing. Any new posture introduced in class is done in demonstration format, where I can make all options of postures available to the students before they try a pose. Presuming students should all do yoga postures the same way is ripe with disaster and is, in my mind, an old and antiquated way of teaching yoga.
Advanced yoga practitioners are perhaps the students who need to embrace the idea of ‘expect less’ the most. As we reach the potential of yoga practice questions need to be addressed like, “How much flexibility is too much flexibility?” Well, it depends on the end goals. As a Certified Personal Trainer, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Certified Yoga Therapist I can confidently state that there is such a thing as too much flexibility. Restricting range of motion in yoga postures to prevent excessive mechanical forces within skeletal joints is an important consideration when practicing yoga.
Don’t think of the ‘expect less’ concept as a cop-out. In actual fact, it’s a common sense approach when performing yoga postures. The next time you’re on the mat apply the ‘expect less’ idea and take note how great you feel at the end of practice.