So whether you are a newbie or a seasoned yogi, ‘the basics’ are the very foundation on which we build an effective and established Asana practice.
When I say “the basics” I mean simple movement of the body, executed safely to achieve a desired goal.
For example, the typical way to get into Warrior II (see image below) - imagine you are standing on your mat with the longer edges either side of you (left and right). To begin, we must step the feet wide, turn the right foot out parallel to the long edge of the mat, then the left foot must turn to be approximately parallel to the short edge of the mat. Then, bend the right leg at the knee, straighten the left leg and square your hips off to the long edge of the mat.
Now that’s just basic body part direction of the lower body, we didn’t even discuss the arms – we didn’t go over alignment, we didn’t visit breath, sensations or options to progress or regress. There is a lot of information to consider and a lot to take in.
But whether you are new or a regular, there is the temptation to skip these basics and get to the end phase of the Asana faster because the basics can seem boring, right?
Now, I am not suggesting that when practicing in a session, you go over the same things each and every time you move into Warrior II – that would be mundane for sure and you probably already know it well after a few attempts.
But making sure you know how to move into the pose and developing the pose is fundamental. So how do we keep it interesting?
Think about learning a language.
First, we learn the Alphabet. We work on phonetics and sounds and these become words, words become sentences, which transform into paragraphs and soon, whole stories.
In yoga, it should be the same, work on building blocks and once you have the knowledge and confidence, move on to the next part.
Now as a teacher, when I am working with people who are new, we have to go back and revisit these basics for things to make sense. But what about those who know the basics well enough, that they don’t need to do their A,B,C’s every class?
Well, I would encourage them to do so, because sometimes the basics are the hardest things to master, sometimes complacency settles in and you might just learn something new going back to the start.
The challenge then becomes about presenting the same information in a new format.
Think of the Alphabet song: “A, B, C D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P”
Did you ever notice that it’s the same melody as the nursery rhyme: “Twinkle, twinkle little star"?
Give it a go and sing it in your head!
Now… take a moment to change the melody of the Alphabet song. Maybe try another nursery rhyme like, “ Mary had a little lamb” and sing the alphabet with that new melody.
All of a sudden, you have been presented with a challenge, something different, a new focal point and a fresh perspective but with the exact same information – all of a sudden, it's interesting again.
If you find yourself doing the same things in repletion, before you change things completely, maybe try changing its melody – give it a fresh perspective and you may just find you learn a whole new side to “the basics” you never noticed before - not just in yoga, but in day-to-day life.