Sometimes during class I suggest to someone a modification or alteration.
Now, before you get your Ashtanga fundamentalist undies clenched in your buttcheeks, usually it’s to reduce exposure to injury or take into consideration physical considerations.
On occasion I might suggest to eliminate or remove a pose, or sequence of poses, for a certain length of time.
A common response is “I feel like I’m cheating!”
Patanjali, a key figure in classical Yoga, suggests in his Yoga Sutras that the purpose of practicing Yoga is to calm, cool, or stanch the fluctuations of the mind.
To paraphrase, we practice Yoga to quiet or still the turbulence of our thoughts.
(Patanjali’s definition of Yoga may not be your definition of Yoga, which then begs the question: why exactly are you doing this? Not a bad question to spend time with.)
The traditional postural sequences of Ashtanga Yoga are a means to allow this experience of Yoga to arise. Sometimes those traditional sequences do not and will not meet your physical situation.
Some obvious examples: fused vertebrae; reconstructed knee ligaments; metal bars and rods in knees, spines and/or ankles; resurfaced hips.
We are not checking off a to-do list of asanas; rather, we practice an established series of poses as a way to allow the sometimes ceaseless chain of thoughts to come to rest.
So you are not cheating by tweaking the sequence to meet your current needs. If the inside of your knee hurts, it is probably possibly time to refrain from lotus attempts
If I'm wrong about eliminating, removing, or making a posture easier (for a time), what's the worst that can happen? You remain uninjured.
If you're wrong about persisting or pushing through, the worst that can happen is that you help an orthopedic surgeon make a house payment.
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Jason owns and directs Portland Ashtanga Yoga.