I moved upstate recently, and after I’d driven across the country and lugged too much detritus—including a mattress-in-a-box—up the stairs of my new place, I was desperate to unfurl my (frozen!) mat and try out the local yoga shalas.
As we all know, different teachers have different interpretations of poses—maybe a Barbie toe instead of a flexed foot here, heel down rather than up there, whatever.
I’m somewhere between awareness and another zone during practice, listening and tuned out at the same time. But when unfamiliar instructions penetrated the fog in those first NY classes, little alarms went off. Wait a minute – jump back to plank?! That’s a big n-o in my previous yoga schools, the thought being that the lower back takes a direct hit. Better to step to plank and lower down, I’ve been taught, or jump directly into chattaranga. Put my hands on my thighs, not the mat, for ardha uttanasana, that mini standing back bend in a sun salute? You’ve got to be kidding!
As you’re no doubt thinking, I was being absurdly rigid where I should be most flexible. When, finally, I gave the new styles an honest try, there were a few epiphanies. Turns out that putting my hands on my thighs (or, cheating, shins) in ardha uttanasana helps find the curve further up my spine, where I most need it. Who knew?
I still haven’t cottoned to the jump-to-plank idea, but I’m tiptoeing toward a trial. An article in Yoga International by Santa Barbara teacher Jenni Rawlings makes a good case for it being a relatively safe transition. The day could come.