Getting Better

Let me start off by saying that I woke this morning to the sounds of mourning doves. While Beanie and I were waiting for her bus, I heard the twittering of birds up in the trees. Not MANY birds, mind you, but birds nonetheless. Anything that twitters or coos (as opposed to things that squawk, gobble, or caw) migrates, and the fact that they’re starting to come back brings me hope that this winter will eventually end…

The point of this post, though, is that I had a really great yoga class yesterday morning at the health club.

I’m not sure whether it was great on its own or whether it stood in contrast to my experiences on Thursday, but I’m also not really sure I care. It was energizing and reaffirming and I’m feeling better about my practice because of it.

The Weeble and two of my regulars – all of whom have been practicing with me for years – stayed behind to tell me how much they enjoyed yesterday’s class, and somehow we steered the conversation around to mechanics.

I have always made it a point to start my classes by telling my participants that it’s important for them to let go of expectations and competition. They don’t need to look like me or the person next to them, I say, because everyone is different. People are often under the mistaken impression that if they try a little harder or practice more often, they’ll eventually be able to do every pose ever imagined. The reality – and the goal, really – is that the physical aspect of yoga isn’t about looking like the instructor or the picture in the magazine; it’s about finding one’s own best expression of a pose.

What I was trying to explain to my regulars is that everyone – EVERY ONE – is built a little bit differently (and some are built a lot differently) and that it’s possible that one’s structure will keep them from ever completely expressing a pose.

I mean, our blueprints are mostly the same – hips and knees and noses generally appear in the same general neighborhood on every body – but the details can vary vastly from human to human.

Take the femur, for example. (That’s the big bone in the thigh, by the way. I didn’t know that for sure until I started studying anatomy in YNG.) At the end where it connects to one’s hips, that bone has two “bumps” on it – one that inserts into the socket of the hip, called the head, and one to which muscles attach, called the greater trochanter.


The distance between these bumps – the neck of the femur – can (and does) vary greatly from person to person. If I have a long neck to my femur, for example, I’m going to have a greater range of lateral (side) motion in my leg – I’ll be able to lift it higher than someone with a short neck – because the outer “bump” of my femur will have farther to go before it hits my hip bone (or, more accurately, before it compresses too much fat and muscle and can’t go any further). Someone with a short femur neck can practice yoga from the time they’re 2 until they die at 97, but no amount of yoga is going to change that femur bone so they can get into the same position that someone with a long-necked femur will be able to express.

With bones, anyway, what you got is what you get.

One of the things I’m learning as a result of my participation in YNG is how I’m put together. I’m learning where all my bones are (and I’m getting more and more interested in the x-rays my chiropractor takes) and how my own personal blueprint affects my physical practice. Knowing what my mechanical limits are, and recognizing that they’re just that – mechanical limits – helps me to release my own, often unreasonable, expectations of what I can and can’t do. It’s another way of learning to love myself, and I’m hoping to teach others this kind of self-acceptance as I go.



Filed under Friends, health, learning, teaching, the jobs, yoga - theory and practice

6 responses to “Getting Better

  1. drtombibey

    Great pics chili- very accurate.

    The hip bone’s connected to the leg bone…

    (I learned anatomy in grade school.)

    And I have a sticker on my mandolin case that says “What if the hokey pokey is what it’s all about?”

    Dr. B

  2. I don’t know a whole lot about anatomy except that mine is falling apart.

    I am noticing the bird thing around here too. It does give me great hope that this dreadful winter may someday end.

  3. sandy

    Super interesting about the bone variation. So, then, do you know something similar about the limitations of the muscles/tendons/ligaments in terms of flexibility? Are there certain “givens” when it comes to that? Even after months of practice I can’t do a standing forward bend very far compared to those in videos (without cheating and rounding the back, that is, but using proper form of bending from the hips), and I’m thinking that I have some inborn limitation. Did those people become video-making yogis *because* they can do such amazing forward bends, or did they get that ability *from* their amazing forward bends? Anyway thanks for the post. Always enjoy your blog.
    Sandy in FL
    PS Been meaning to tell you that I worry about your identity availability. I figured out who you are without too much trouble, just a bit of google. I am just a curious person, a harmless middle-aged mom who likes to know whose words I’m reading, totally not a stalker. But some other reader might be one. I urge you to go back and change or eliminate some details!

  4. I didn’t know that about the femur. You’ve got me wondering about my own.

    The sounds of spring are always nice to hear. It’s my favorite time of year.

  5. twoblueday

    Since I’m not a yogisti (or is it yogilist?), I have no idea why it is important for someone learning yoga to even aspire to doing some pose (posture? movement?) exactly. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that I don’t know why anyone would make that important to themselves.

    We are, indeed, “limited” by our genetic makeup. Limited in many ways.

  6. Pingback: Hot Yoga « YogaBalance ~ Mind/Body/Spirit

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