Not long ago an acquaintance of mine said to me: “I saw a picture of this cool pose on line and I tried it – man, my back hurt afterwards!” Turns out he’d attempted Dhanurasana without any sort of preparation – bad idea.
Any complex/intricate yoga pose requires specific preparation and it doesn’t mean couple rounds of Sun Salutations. As yoga teachers we have the responsibility to both analyze the biomechanics of movement in any difficult posture and try to foresee potential risks that it has for the body. Then we need to prepare our students FOR THAT PARTICULAR POSE and do our best to minimize the risk.
When it comes to deciding on how many difficult postures to include in a practice, there are few factors to consider:
- student’s abilities (students who are younger and more physically able can handle multiple goal postures)
- intended length of the practice (if you want your practice to be short and specific you have to stay focused on one thing)
- the difficulty of the posture itself (some poses are riskier then others)
- the purpose of your practice (a teacher might spend an entire class preparing for Tree pose to explore the idea of grounding)
- teacher’s experience (it’s harder to design safer practices for multiple goal postures)
Generally speaking, less is more. If you pick one goal posture per class, you will be able to prepare adequately, explore it properly and then compensate appropriately. If we think of a yoga practice as a bell curve, the goal posture would be at the very top, the pinnacle of the practice. It also makes more sense to sharpen your skills by building a practice around one goal posture, before you move on to multiple options.
Stay tuned for breath-centered, population-specific and integrative practices!