April 23, 2014

Why Collect Yoga Poses? For the Fun of It! ~ Valerie Michael


I have heard a lot of criticism lately on the idea of yogis “collecting poses.”

This term is used with a negative connotation and implies that the person doing the “collecting” has the sole goal of trying to learn and show off every advanced, challenging pose that they possibly can and, as a result, they are thus missing the true point of yoga.

The poses that these yogis “collect” are the flashy ones, the sexy ones—usually poses such as advanced inversions, arm balances and backbends.

The case against “collecting poses” is that it is in some way shallow and elitist, as if doing one of these poses is the yoga equivalent of driving a yellow Lamborghini or carrying a designer purse. I disagree, and here I’ll make my case for collecting poses.

Developing a mindset

When I first heard a yoga teacher tell the class to “move into Crow pose”, I looked around and realized what that meant, my first reflexive thought was, “Are you kidding? I’ll never be able to do that.”

The first time I attempted to push up into Wheel my arms shook and my body would barely budge off the floor and I thought, “Oh well, I just can’t do this pose.”

Slowly though, these poses began to develop for me. One toe at a time, I started to come off the ground into Crow. Slowly I built the strength to push up into Wheel and along with it I found myself taking a new attitude towards poses I couldn’t yet do. The reflexive “I’ll never be able to do that” morphed into “Hmm, maybe I can do that” and all the way into “I know I’ll be able to reach that point one day.”

Each new pose makes me feel stronger, more capable, and surer of myself. Learning new poses builds a mindset of confidence and an optimistic view towards future challenges, both on and off the mat.

Learning to fall and to let go 

In life and in yoga, it is important to learn how to fall. It is impossible to learn inversions and arm balances without falling, sometimes even right on my face (ahem…Flying Pigeon).

Falling has so many beautiful lessons. Learning to fall gracefully and safely and to be able to let go of  fears. Learning to get back up and to look at falling as part of the process rather than a failure.

Learning Headstand was like learning to ice skate. Once I finally stopped falling I realized that in order to really move forward, I had to step away from the wall and leave behind my safety net. Even though I hadn’t used the wall in months, the first time I did a Headstand away from the wall was a huge milestone.

Yoga does not stay on a mat and these are important lessons in order to live a life in which we go after success and happiness without letting crutches and fear hold us back.

Getting the “spark” back

Yoga is a never-ending journey full of ups and downs, sudden changes, long plateaus and sometimes even disheartening backwards steps. I love yoga and my practice is constantly evolving but I am not ashamed to admit that sometimes I go through stages where I just get plain bored with it.

When practice starts to seem monotonous and repetitive there is nothing I’ve found that pulls me out of a yoga rut better than learning a new challenging pose. A new pose is to a yoga plateau, as a romantic trip to Hawaii is to a relationship that has started to fall into a routine and lose its passion—it isn’t the foundation of the relationship but it just adds a certain “spark.”

It’s just one aspect of your practice

Learning these “collector” poses doesn’t lessen the value of any other set of poses nor does it mean that because we do them we leave the rest of our practice behind. It is just one of many components of an engaging, sustainable, healthy practice.

Its freakin’ fun!!

I mean, come on, inversions and arm balances and backbends are just a ton of fun. They are fun to practice and it’s exhilarating to nail one. Yoga should be fun! We should be able to fall and laugh and get so excited when we finally hold a pose, and then we fall out and laugh all over again. It is as simple as this: It is fun to do poses and that isn’t shallow and it doesn’t “miss the point” of yoga.


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Apprentice Editor: Lauryn DeGrado/Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

Photo: Lauren Nelson/Flickr

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Valerie Michael