Going in search of a new and elusive asana. By Diane Ashfield
If you regularly practice yoga you’ve probably mastered all of the basic asana, you’ve become best friends with most intermediate postures, but moving on to something more advanced might feel a little bit scary. Maybe you are like me and are on the lookout for something that’s halfway between intermediate and advanced that doesn’t involve standing on your head or balancing on your arms! Perhaps you are getting bored with the same old poses over and over again and want to try something new, something different.
It’s easy to become stuck in a rut in our home practice. We often perform the same postures because we feel safe and confident doing them, but sometimes these poses become so familiar to our bodies that we go into auto-pilot, we don’t even have to think about what we are doing – and that gives the mind the opportunity to wander. If your mind starts to stray during practice, it could be that your repertoire of asana needs adjusting or tweaking to bring your total focus back to the mat.
We can easily adapt the vast majority of asana to keep our interest alive – for example, balancing (and keeping!) a block on the head whilst squatting down into Garland Pose (Malasana) or lifting the heel and coming high onto the toes of the bent leg in Warrior Two (Virabhadrasana II) which, by the way, is a fantastic stretch for the calf muscles. I love looking at all the variations of a pose. I adore playing with postures to make them more interesting and accessible to my students or looking at ways to make them a tad challenging for the more adventurous yogi. But at the end of the day, no matter how many variations you explore in Warrior One, it’s still Warrior One! This made me wonder whether there are any yoga asana out there waiting for me to discover, postures that never get mentioned in magazines, let alone make it to the mat in a studio. Something not too advanced. Something I could get my teeth into.
Hence it became my mission to seek out and find an elusive asana – not just for myself to practice, but something suitable to teach to my students too. I began scouring the internet for inspiration, and then, after what seemed like an eternity, I stumbled upon Blossoming Lotus (Vikasita Kamalasana). This asana might be familiar to some of you, and I won’t spoil it for you if you’re not acquainted with it, but this was a pose I’d never seen nor heard of before, and I’ve been practicing for over 25 years. It felt like I’d discovered a rare orchid or a lost tribe of deepest, darkest Peru! I was so excited, this was such a hidden gem, and I couldn’t wait to practice it. And after I’d practiced it, I fell in love with it – so much so, that within a few days, I had drawn up a lesson plan and had taught it in class. Mission accomplished!
If you are lucky enough to find an amazing new pose, it’s tempting to rush straight in and practice it immediately, so don’t forget to warm up the joints and muscles beforehand. Always work to your measure, listen to your body and tune in to your breath. How does the pose make you feel? If it feels good – fabulous, enjoy it, but if not, what adjustments could you make? This is a voyage of discovery, so note whether there are any variations or ways that you could make it work for you, maybe using blocks for support, blankets for extra padding or the wall to assist in balance – play around with it.
I love the adage "variety is the spice of life” so if you feel your home practice is becoming a bit stale, and rolling out your mat feels more of a chore than a pleasure, search for something new to re-ignite your passion for yoga! There are new postures out there waiting to be discovered for the intrepid yogi, plus lots of different variations of poses to fire your imagination, you only have to look for them. Be adventurous as you begin your Yoga Safari – pop on your camouflage yoga pants and grab your binoculars because you never know, you might just stumble upon a new species of asana!