In my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) we were required to photograph ourselves practicing 50 postures. I enlisted my husband to take the photos and give me any suggestions on alignment – I would verbally tell him the cues and ask what I needed to do to perfect the outward appearance of each pose.
I will never forget the first call we had where my teacher went over the first set of postures we had all submitted. My photos, that I worked so hard to make perfect, were often discussed…and not because they were “perfect”.
As my teacher went over the postures and made alignment and modification suggestions for many of them, two things that she said forever changed how I view yoga asana: “the pose is not the goal” and “range is of the ego, form is of the soul”. Her words helped me to realize the very large role my ego had been playing in my asana practice.
As a teacher, I use these words in nearly every class I teach. It is so easy to get caught up in the outward appearance of yoga postures, striving to push and pull our bodies into the “perfect” form (social media doesn’t help). This pushing and pulling is not the same as fine-tuning safe and thoughtful alignment. It is the jumping over our edge and into a form of the pose for the sake of the pose, rather than the body, mind and soul.
Now I find myself as a teacher training assistant (with my same teacher), reviewing photos similar to my own taken by students throughout their YTT. It is amazing to see how the photos change over the course of the training. How the same words spoken by my teacher continue to open yogis’ hearts, minds and bodies to themselves, guiding them to their soul.