I am first and foremost a student of yoga, a mother, a wife, animal lover, and artist. I immerse myself in workshops, online classes, visit and practice in many studios and read. As a yoga teacher and human, I have to play with words. I think we all do. Words can describe a shape, words can lead a direction and words can either build someone up or tear someone down. Some say, “Actions speak louder than words” in fact, they certainly do. What about the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Can’t we feel words in our bones, whether it stems from kindness or hate? What message is that sending? After immersing myself in a Deconstruct to Reconstruct program led by Alexandria Crowe, I had several eye-opening moments during the training as well as teaching. I can list so many of those “ah-ha” moments, but I encourage you to sign up for yourself. A strong take away has been yoga should be for everyone and the use of our words.
The more I teach yoga, the more I believe yoga is for everyone. I also felt this way early on in my own practice. It is to be inclusive not exclusive. However, when a class is led under an “all levels” title, what does that truly mean? I feel it is based on what a student decides whether or not they want to take it down a notch or turn up the heat. The suggestion of a class being called “all levels” invites a person to come into class making it feel welcoming and user friendly. How does Accessible to All sound? However, teaching a true all levels class can be the most demanding and challenging for a teacher. For example, I had two students who could not get down on their hands and knees. I’ve had students who were able to move through poses easily and others were very new to the practice. I’ve had students with disabilities, both mental and physical.
In my mind, there has been a lot of thought going back and forth regarding the words “modification and variation” When the pose is offered as a modification, a strong percentage of the population doesn’t want to feel like a failure or less than so they struggle through the movement not taking into consideration how a variation would aid in strength and anatomical safety and their own alignment. Alignment will certainly be another blog-worthy topic.
Here are their definitions:
Modify: make partial or minor changes to something, typically so as to improve it or make it less extreme.
Biological def: transform a structure from its original anatomical form during development or evolution
Variation: a change or difference in condition, amount level, typically with certain limits.
Biological def: a different or distinct form or a version of something
So I started to research and came up with statements made by TKV Deskachar 1984
Whenever we look at an asana we must look at the two sides
- What is involved in the asana?
- Who is doing the asana?
You can be in a pose and do a number of variations. Deskachar said so himself “variations” aha!
We cannot escape the need for adaptation. Adaptation is the application of certain principles to achieve certain results. It implies knowing where the person is now and knowing where we want them to go….I love that!
Adaptation is the means used to bridge the gap. It is possible to adapt a posture through the breath, using props, etc.
Like the leaves changing and the days becoming darker, our own practices evolves, grows and at times, regresses. However, we are taught many valuable lessons such as awareness, patience, kindness and certainly wisdom.
Be the light!