YogaDork Ed: For the edification of yoga practitioners, teachers and yogi dabblers! We did not push the ‘Dorkasana‘, we swear.
Getting Dorky with Your Yoga
By Sarah Court, Yoga Tune Up® Teacher & Trainer
When we first come to yoga it can seem overwhelming: new words in Sanskrit (isn’t that a dead language?) describing shapes we’ve never made before with our bodies, that everyone else seems to know and fall into effortlessly as we heave and sweat and strain, (or at least that was my experience, as I was too proud to start in a basics class), some moves that look just about impossible and entirely out of our reach, and then, thank god, we get to lie down at the end. There’s a teacher up front going on about meditation, or awareness, or breathing, but we’re just trying to get through the hour and a half without expiring.
Eventually, through practice, we settle down, we learn and make adjustments, we recognize the names of the poses, and over the years we develop an attunement to ourselves. It can be easy to get lulled into an idea of what our practice looks and feels like, and what we believe our bodies can do. In other words, we start to become complacent in our practice.
Not that we don’t still receive enormous benefits, or look forward to it at the end of a long day as a means to downgrade and unwind, or enjoy that we’re finally comfortable in a headstand in the middle of the room after 5 years of trying. And the experience of a dedicated practice, deepening our relationship with ourselves, coming to greater and greater awareness through regular practice and self-examination is what yoga is all about.
But without new stimulation, without challenging ourselves, it can be easy to settle for the mid-range of both our abilities and our experience. I have felt this myself more than once, and from my own experience I can only say that we are the ones responsible for shaking ourselves out of it (as with pretty much any other change that we want to make in our lives). Your yoga teacher can only do so much to inspire you: you may find that you need to learn the great pose called Dorkasana.
Dorkasana, as defined by… me, is anything that gets you jazzed about yoga, that gives you a breakthrough by coming at it a different way, or that connects your life back to your practice and threads your world together. It’s anything that stimulates your brain, or your body, or your heart, and gets you out of the habits that you’ve created in your practice.
We can practice Dorkasana in any number of ways. The value of a steady practice in our short-attention-span world with a teacher that we learn from and respect, and with whom we develop a teacher-student relationship cannot be discounted. However, it can be a great inspiration to study with another teacher, perhaps in a workshop or retreat, or as an addition to your regular schedule. This is not ‘cheating’ on your teacher! We yoga teachers work to the greatest of our abilities with each student, and we must be willing to recognize that our abilities might have limits, and that a student can benefit from the wisdom of others.
From the seat of the teacher, to find new teachers to learn from is not only Dorkasana for our practice, but also for our own teaching, and will allow us to serve our students better by deepening our knowledge and skills. As a student, you will return to your regular teacher and remark “I took a workshop with blah-de-blah teacher, and I heard this amazing thing about the lower back in Urdhva Dhanurasana!” (Your teacher will nod, and smile, and hopefully keep to themselves that they’ve been telling you about this for years.)
One of my personal favorite Dorkasana variations is reading. There are reams and reams of books about yoga from every possible angle – philosophy, anatomy, breathing, memoir – so if your practice feels humdrum, then turn off the TV, sign out of facebook, and read. One of my original Dorkasana purchases: ‘A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana’ by Mel Robin (and in case the word handbook makes it sound like a brief read, it’s over 600 pages long). My inner dork thrills to this excerpt about proprioception from page 208:
“Question: What sense is delighted when we do yogasana? Answer: The pleasure of doing yogasana must come from the appreciation of the kinesthetic and proprioceptive sensors in the body which monitor the limb positions, motions and tensions within the muscles, joints, etc. As with the other senses, the delight of doing yogasana increases with increasing discrimination and sophistication in practice.”
If you have a daily practice, Dorkasana it up by doing the whole thing in reverse. Start with savasana (WHAT!!). Or pick one pose and do it over and over and over again. Do every standing pose you can think of. Then every arm balance. See what happens. Learn. Keep moving. Grow. As one of my teachers, Manorama, often reminds us, the practice of yoga is not about becoming another thing. It’s not for adding more layers on, but for getting closer and closer to the core until we become That. We don’t want to end up yoga practitioners, we want to end up free. So if you’re stuck somewhere in your practice, kind of satisfied but also kind of dull, keep going. Un-stick yourself. And see how the un-sticking changes your life off the mat as well.
“Analysis and experimentation have to go together, and at tomorrow’s practice you have to think again, am I doing the old pose, or is there a new feeling? Can I extend this new feeling a little more? If I cannot extend it, what is missing?”
– B.K.S. Iyengar
Sarah Court is an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Teacher, also trained in Anusara and Jivamukti Yoga, who draws from all of these styles in her teaching. She teaches weekly Yoga Tune Up® and Vinyasa classes at various locations in Los Angeles, and trains yoga teachers in anatomy and in Yoga Tune Up® across the country. Find her Yoga Tune Up® schedule here or learn more at her full website.
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