I'm calling my blog section "Puzzle Pieces" because for me, asana, is very much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, especially when we are first starting out or attempting more challenging postures. You pour the pieces of the puzzle out of the box and it’s all just a jumbled mess. Nothing seems to make any sense, the pieces are oddly shaped, and it’s incredibly overwhelming trying to decide where to begin. Sound like the first time you stepped on your yoga mat in a public class? Yeah, mine too.
You dump the pieces out of the box and start flipping them over, separating them into edge pieces (hoping you find the corners easily!), or separating them into like colors, patterns or designs. You bring a touch of order into the chaos that just was and you can take a deep breath, evaluate everything in front of you, and choose where to begin.
It doesn’t really matter where you begin, it simply matters that you DO. You try and get the framework down first and then work on the more difficult or challenging aspects of the puzzle. Likewise, in yoga, we aim to grasp the general shape of the poses and alignment principles and then as we become more comfortable with the terminology, pace and sequencing arc of a class, we can begin to play the edge into more interesting and/or challenging postures.
This is how I approach my asana practice when it comes to new or challenging poses. I like to break down the posture into reasonable and sane sections and work with that for awhile. Once I feel reasonably confident in most aspects of the posture, I will attempt to pull it all together. For example, with Vishvamitrasana (you’ll find my full post below), I focused on adductor (inner thigh) and hamstring lengthening for two weeks and then concentrated on increasing shoulder stability for two weeks. It was only after practicing in this mindful and methodic way I was able to even remotely do the pose.
Just like puzzling, yoga asana can be frustrating, challenging, and seem like there just has to be “one piece missing!” But we persevere and keep working the process of flipping things around, looking at it from a different angle, trying different things, learning how to use our breath to calm our nervous system, and lo and behold, there is that one day when you find the “missing piece” and it fits snuggly into the spot, connecting everything together.
Sometimes it’s the piece that is the oddest looking, the one you thought “would never work there,” and sometimes it’s the most obvious thing staring you in the face that you just so happened to overlook until that exact moment. Again, it doesn’t matter how your genius works, simply know and trust that it DOES. Once that final piece of the asana (or jigsaw) puzzle is put into place, the whole thing is a beautiful masterpiece that was totally worth all the trial and error, discipline and dedication.