What does it mean to be "good" at yoga?
One day I was waiting at the bus stop after yoga class and a young man asked me if I did yoga. (I guess the yoga mat gave me away.)
“Yes,” I replied.
“Are you good at it?” he asked.
I hesitated before answering. Frankly, I have a hard time admitting I'm good at anything and I suspected that his criteria for being good at yoga were different than mine. So, I asked him, “What do you mean by good?"
"Can you do a planche?" he asked.
"No, I can't," I replied.
"Hmm...I'm working on a planche. It's hard," he added.
Indeed, it is. A planche is similar to what we call peacock pose (aka Mayurasana). It’s considered an advanced pose and requires open shoulders, strong flexible wrists, and core stabilization. It’s the kind of pose that one generally works on for a while with a fair amount of face plants along the way. So, what does it mean to be good at yoga?Back when I was in Yoga Teacher Training, I was on the phone with my father one day telling him about my training.“Can you do all the poses?” he asked.I thought, “All the poses—even the Cirque du Soleil contortionist-like ones?” I reassured him that I could still teach yoga even if I couldn’t do every yoga pose. He seemed skeptical. So, what does it mean to be good at yoga?I’ve had the privilege to learn from and practice with many people whom I consider to be good at yoga. Here are some of the qualities they share:
They practice with a balance of effort and ease
They don’t worry about what others are doing; they don’t need to “keep up” or prove themselves
They’re not embarrassed to use props (blankets, blocks, bolsters, etc.) and they use them well
They know how to both modify and amplify poses
They realize that their bodies are different every day, so what worked yesterday, may not be good for today
They’re good at blocking out the distractions that inevitably accompany a yoga class
They know when to rest
Some people are very flexible. Some people are really strong. Some people can balance on their hands. Some people are flexible, strong, and they can balance on their hands and they’re even in Cirque du Soleil. But maybe being good at yoga isn’t really about being able to do all the poses or a certain challenging pose. Am I good at yoga? Let’s just say, I continue to practice.