I want to share the story of my journey to being able to perform Chaturanga Dandasana or the bottom of a yoga push up. It was a slow process involving a lot of collapsing to the floor, frustration and self-doubt. That went on for a long time and then I started to do something I wish I’d done years before. That was taking an alternative option – in this case Ashtanga Namaskar or five-pointed bow pose.
It took me so long to choose this option partly because I had almost exclusively done yoga in a gym where the focus had been on strength and power, so no one had ever told me there was an alternative to a belly flop in the middle of my sun salutations. And partly because my ego was getting in the way of my practice and I just wanted to be able to do what the person next to me was doing. The irony is that when I started regularly performing Ashtanga Namaskar I quickly built up the strength for Chaturanga in a way I hadn’t by performing Chaturanga incorrectly.
Options in yoga aren’t there because one pose is better than another, but because every human body is different and there’s no need to rush or force yourself into a posture. Rather than giving in to feelings of inadequacy or skipping a pose, taking an option allows us to participate and build strength for other poses in the future.
The other absolutely fantastic thing about options in yoga is being able to use equipment. Blocks, straps, blankets, bolsters, jellies… they are all brilliant and should never be shunned. Using blocks and straps I can achieve variations of Utpluti Dandasana (Floating Stick) and Rajakapotasana (King Pigeon). Maybe one day after using the equipment these poses will be achievable for me. But even if not, I like to remember this quote ‘yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down’. Now I challenge you to go and look up a variation or option of a pose you never thought you’d be able to do and give it a go!