A Life Lesson from Doing the Same Yoga Sequence, Part One
I once enjoyed a studio that taught the same vinyasa sequence over twelve weeks. There were a total of five sequences over a year with one for each of the five elements: fire, water, earth, ether, and air. They all had similar anatomical themes, but offered progressions in different manners with particular poses. When I first practiced in this way, I felt a little bored. Honestly, I was still working on diminishing my ego and truly finding the art of yoga for myself and my life. But, I began to find the value as I matured in my practice.
I talked to other students at the studio to get their impressions of this approach. Some students began anticipating the poses and moving one or two steps ahead of the teacher. Others enjoyed the reliability of knowing what came next so they stayed grounded and meditated through the practice as they moved.
Keeping with the same practice is a traditional approach to yoga. In the past, the teacher (guru) would give one pose to the student and only advance to another pose until he thought he/she was ready. Teachers of Ashtanga Yoga lead students through the same sequence when exploring the primary series (or any series beyond this level-- there are six total) and, similarly, Bikram Yoga offers the same 26 poses. There is a value and a lesson in doing the same sequence that can inform your life off the mat. (Stay tuned for Part 2!)
When doing the same poses, you give yourself time and space to not only learn the them wholly, but also to dive in more deeply every time you do them. When I practiced at the above mentioned studio, I surprised myself at how deeply meditative my experience became when I didn't have to place the biomechanics of the pose at the forefront of my mind. I got stronger in the poses week after week and became capable at taking the poses into more advanced variations. When I practiced Ashtanga Yoga through a Mysore approach, I worked steadily at refining the poses in body and mind (i.e., my attitude towards the poses and myself working on them) and felt proud and encouraged when the Mysore leader progressed me to the next pose.
Doing the same poses gives space to refine your understanding of yourself and the poses every time you get in and out of them. My Iyengar yoga teacher used to say, “It’s never another Downward Facing Dog! There’s always something different!” She’s correct. How many times have you done Downward Facing Dog? Dozens, hundreds, if not thousands, right? Every time you do it, your body is in a different capacity to receive the pose because it is either stronger, more flexible, or more tired from what came before-- that alone makes it a new experience of the pose. There is an infinity of sensations within and they are awaiting exploration every time you do a pose.
Subscribe to this website and use the free at-home practice I will email you as a test for how it feels to do the same practice for at least a month. Take time to learn the poses. Find the gross movements of each and how you feel in each pose. Then, take time to find the subtleties. What are the nuances of the arches of your feet in standing poses? How can you find length in your spine in each pose? Where is your breath moving in the body as you move in and out of poses? How does your breath feel when you settle into a pose?
Take this awareness off the mat and discover something new today about your commute to work, your spouse or partner, or your attitude towards life as you embrace every moment as a new beginning for exploration. I enjoy taking this practice off the mat every time I sit at the table with my family. I notice a new freckle or two on my daughter's face. I see a little more gray in my husband's hair and how dignified he looks as he ages. Or I notice the differences in how I eat the lentils on my plate (their taste, their texture, the spice arrangement), which is a food I eat almost daily. Comment below how you feel doing the same yoga practice daily and how it affects your attitude towards life.