It’s Hip to Be Square – Except When It’s Not.

10802591_1501415153467456_301750394_n“Inhale, step your left foot forward into Warrior I as you square your hips to the front.” calls the teacher.

Somewhere in the back of the room, a student is sweating, unable to breath smoothly because, dammit – those hips won’t square. Now the student is cussing at himself in the mind because why can’t he do it “right.” That student decides yoga isn’t for him, leaves and from that moment on decides he “can’t do yoga.” That’s BULLS*%T!

If I could say one thing to new students everywhere, I would repeat the mantra “You can’t do yoga wrong.” over and over and over again. Sure we have alignment theory and sequencing theory, but there are generalizations in yoga because we are generally not teaching yoga in the way it was intended centuries ago. Now we have group classes and teacher manuals with a whole lot of big egos teaching it all. (**note** – in case you thought I didn’t have an ego because I was a yoga teacher – WRONG, I’ve got ego to spare).

Yoga was designed to be customized to the student. Traditionally, a student would seek out a reclusive guru – some master teacher that maybe lived in a cave or a forest and learn, one-on-one, from that teacher. The techniques varied based on a student’s physical condition, mental ability, and personality characteristics.

In 2016, we have a modern society based on monetary exchange and yoga is mostly done in a group setting. Obviously the yoga of 2016 is going to have evolved and changed based on the humans teaching it over the centuries. Make no mistake – “classical yoga” as we teach it today, is really only dating back to the early 1900s coming from Master teachers like Pattabi Jois or BKS Iyengar. And it was not developed in some altruistic “healing “manner – money was involved. Please don’t get it twisted – capitalism, American individuality and accomplishment culture have changed or evolved yoga. A public group class is rarely customized because by its very nature, it’s public, open to all and available to any type of body.

finalWhat does this mean to you, as a student?

When yoga teachers, in a group setting, say things like “square your hips,” they are intending to reach all 30 people in the class – it is a cue that works for most bodies and is not customized for you, the individual body. Hopefully the teacher you are with is kind enough to reach you at least once, individually in the class, but not always.

The cue itself is well intentioned, Warrior I is a neutral hip pose (sometimes called closed hips) and the hip bones are intended to be face forward. The cue is intended to cultivate the action of moving the hips TOWARDS that direction. You aren’t doing it wrong if your hips won’t make it forward – you have genetics at play and life experience that lives in your muscles and connective tissue.

tumblr_nka5igNB0h1qzun1ro1_400Please know that some poses won’t be possible for your body. However, you can still benefit from cultivating the actions that move towards the intended posture. This is called a “krama,” or a stage of the pose. I do hope your teacher offers you variations or adaptations, if not – you might seek a different teacher.

Maybe you have short arms and arm balances make you feel like a “T-Rex.” I read my spiritual texts and no where does it say you are going to hell if you can’t master the Crow pose.

Maybe you birthed twins and your middle is not as toned as someone who never had kids – love it, for God’s sake – you made LIFE! That’s way more impressive than someone who can balance on one arm.

Maybe your story is one of abandonment and violence – well of course it will be hard for you to “open your heart,” – my goodness – just-becausesomeone literally trampled on yours! It’s ok to hate heart openers.

Maybe as a kid you were constantly asked to be perfect and now in your yoga practice, you just can’t stop perfecting that asana. Here is your chance to practice being human and allow for “mistake!”


The Bhagavad Gita, a classical Indian yoga text, states “no effort on the path is ever wasted.” Work TOWARDS your square hips, maybe someday the hips will square, but you also need to be OK with knowing that maybe they won’t.


You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. 


If you take nothing more from all these words – take this – You’ll never be perfect at yoga, so stop aiming for perfection and allow yourself to live in progress. Practice your potential.


Root to Rise


I was taking a hike the other morning. It was one of the first hikes I’ve taken since winter released her chilly and isolated grip. The sun was shining, the dappled light streaming down through the branches like sunshine glitter and the robin’s egg blue sky aglow with a promise of warmth. Welcome spring!

As I walked the trails at Peoria’s Forest Park Nature Center, I came upon a tree that had not made it through the icy grip of winter. I noticed that the root system was fairly shallow and thought back to the ice storm we had experienced in December. The tree had not been rooted strongly enough to weather the challenge of this particular winter. It toppled over.

The root system had been shallow. The foundation had not been strong. The journey of this tree was more broad than deep. And now here is yoga.

y8The breadth of yoga is vast. The methods many. This debate over the right and wrong is pointless – the truth is that there are many paths for many people. Your yoga doesn’t need to be the same as someone else’s. As we begin a yoga journey, exploration is required. How do you know where you want to root if you aren’t sure of into which landscape you wish to plant?

However, at some point the endless wandering does need to pause and plant. The exploring gives you a wide number of roots but the staying is where the depth is found. That’s not to say you can’t replant your tree of yoga, but consider that if you are seeking something specific, it may be hard to discover it if you keep skimming just the surface.

Tree-of-YogaThis analogy can be married to whole host
of yoga topics – what lineage is right for you? What pose do you want to achieve? Anatomy? Meditation? Breath work? Supernatural yoga powers?

The point is that if you don’t plant some firm roots for your goal to grow, at the first sign of a storm, the tree of your practice can be easily uprooted. This is where the practice of setting intention can be helpful. Be clear about what brought you to the mat and then revisit your intention every so often and fine tune it.

Choose your own adventure – study it well – do the practice and all is coming. You can weather any storm. You can root down to rise up. You can.




Mondays: 7:00 pm @Senara on Willow Knolls

Fridays: Noon & 4 pm @Senara

My Personal Practice

Alignment Authenticity Anatomy Junkie Spiritual Flow Mantras Mudras Continuous Education Practice What You Teach Progress Not Perfection Guiding Teachers: BKS Iyengar Pattabi Jois Shiva Rea Daren Friesen (Moksha Chicago) Marinda Stopforth (Prairie Yoga - Lisle, IL)

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