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Picking Favourites: Investigating our Yoga Pose Preferences

Many of us have a favourite yoga pose – the one that took us forever to master; the one that really made yoga “click” for us; the one that helped us heal an injury; the one that always chills us out ... whatever your reason for choosing it, chances are there’s that one pose you’re excited to do every single day, whether you’re in class or at home.

So what’s the problem with picking favourites?

Some yoga poses may feel intuitive for our bodies, and directly helpful, while some just make no sense, and are totally uncomfortable. It stands to reason that the former poses become our favourites, right?

Of course! As we all know, however, true yoga is about practicing in such a way that cultivates mindfulness, discernment, and detachment. It is only when we use our asana toward these goals that we can begin to yoke the mind and body, and ground and energize the spirit.

So how might picking favourites impede this work?

A typical story in the yoga world:

“I was practicing headstand every day because it made me feel amazing! Suddenly one day my neck started to hurt. I figured it would just go away, and kept practicing – I couldn’t imagine my day without the release of headstand. Finally, though, it got so bad my hands were going numb, and I had to stop completely!”

Of course favourite poses don’t always cause injuries. Perhaps, however, becoming attached to a certain pose can cloud our sense of mindfulness and discernment. Because our mind tells us we like this pose, it becomes harder to notice and accept that it is not the right thing for our body on a given day, or during a particular period of time. In fact, sometimes our preference for the pose can affect our judgment so much that we push ourselves to the point of injury when we thought we were doing our body good. Perhaps such thought is based on past positive experiences with the pose – experiences that initially led us to label the pose as a favourite.

Abiding in the present during all of our poses helps us to practice safely and reap more holistic benefits from our efforts. For example, while practicing that favourite pose, observe what your body likes about it so much. Observe – without judgment! – whether your mind is congratulating yourself for once again achieving this difficult arm balance, how your hips actually feel in the moment versus how amazing they felt two weeks ago, the present rhythm of your breath.

Practice with the same attentiveness during poses you actively dislike. Who knows? You may feel something quite different in that hated pose today than you did last month when you decided you hated it. The shift could be as simple as dropping your mental narrative.

We can bring what we learn from this aspect of the practice into the rest of our lives. The more we pay close attention and feel what is really going on in our asana, the more we master the art of not judging any aspect of our experience. We become more attuned with our bodies, aware what storylines our minds are feeding us, and more able to discern what will truly serve us in that very moment.

Julia Tausch practices yoga and writing in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a certified yin yoga instructor, as well as the author of the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart. She is currently completing her second novel and blogging about the process.

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