We want to advance. As humans, it is a natural drive and a beautiful desire. To improve. To go deeper. To become a master of our craft. Same goes for our yoga practice. We want to experience the depth of a pose and dive into all of the intricacies an asana has to offer. Often in our yoga practice, another desire can be to progress into more advanced poses - handstand, forearm stand, crow, or any of the other mystical poses that are a part of an advanced yoga practice.
We want to get there but how? How do we begin the journey toward a stronger, more advanced practice?
First thing's first - dissolve any ideas of what your pose should look like or what the end goal is (lift off in crow, balancing on hands, touching foot to head). In working toward a pose, of course we will have the more advanced version in our mind and that's important. Do not drop the visualization of your desired pose but try to dissolve any of the expectations or I shoulds around that particular pose: I should be in handstand by now, my pose should look like hers, I should at least be able to get my foot this far over my head by now.
I've had all these thoughts before and they are debilitating. It wasn't until I released those expectations that my body had the freedom to truly explore the pose and, in turn, advance at a faster rate.
Something that changed my practice and helps me receive the full benefits of any pose: finding the sweet spot. And not that other yogi's sweet spot who is rocking crow pose in the front row. Not that yogi's sweet spot who you saw in an Instagram photo. Your own fabulous sweet spot that is unique to you and your body.
Then, after finding that sweet spot, bathe yourself in breath and complete presence.
The beauty of this? It not only applies to our yoga practice but to every part of life.
How do you know when you've found your sweet spot?
When you forget about how you want the pose to look like and you FEEL the pose so strongly and sweetly. When you find that space in the pose - that moment - when all of the external stimulation dissipates and you are only with yourself and your sensations. The sweet spot is the place where you dissolve tension instead of create more of it; where you don't push yourself but you let yourself be where you are.
Finding the sweet spot means meeting yourself where you are and settling into that. It means shifting into a pose with a certain level of effort, taking a few breaths to explore it and then finding that place that feels good, that makes you want to say YUM, that then feels expansive.
The beauty of yoga is finding that balance between effort and grace. The sweet spot is nestled in that balance. When we can navigate more fluently between contraction and expansion - or you can call it masculine and feminine - we can drink up the juicy nectar of our sweet spot.
In my own personal practice, I know I've found the sweet spot when I want to stay there, when it feels like I'm moving through honey and I can allow the sweetness to drip over me. The sweet spot is when I feel expanded and open. I've found my sweet spot when I feel myself airing out, letting go of any of the knots of tension or unnecessary information and feeling them softly unweave themselves from the fabric of my being.
Hot tip: When you find that sweet spot - whether that is a sweet moment on your yoga mat, a sweet encounter with a friend, an incredibly delicious bite of food, an uplifting moment in the street - say mmmmmmm. It will inflate the vibration of that moment, intensifying all the flavors.
On your mat, find the spot where your breath feels expanded rather than restricted. If the breath becomes shallow, it is a sign that you may have gone too far. Let the breath be your guide, always making sure that it is fully bathing you. Close your eyes if you can and dig yourself into the present sensation, into the immediate experience.
Savor these moments, feeling yourself travel past the outlines of your skin and into your higher self - the part of you steeped in intrinsic genius, the part of you brimming with joy and deep deep knowledge.
This is how we advance our practice: not by clinging to an idea of how the pose should look but feeling our way around, through, and into the poetry of our moving bodies. Energy is information and it is constantly moving. To advance our practice we must stay present with the current fluctuations of energy so we can catch the information and absorb it properly.
We all have different bodies, different breath patterns, different levels of practice. Two bodies can make the exact same shape but it will feel totally different for each person. The feeling of the pose is what makes a lasting impression. The feeling is what we are after because feeling/sensation is the gateway to creating a deeper conversation with the subtleties of our body. Find that sweet spot where you want to stay, add deep breaths and notice what begins to unfurl inside of you.
When we notice where we are now, what is present in our immediate experience, where our body wants to be (not our ego), we are advancing. Wherever you are in your practice is perfect. Be there. Be with it now, like a baby. When we are with babies we don't think about how we want them to be adults right now. We watch their every little cute move and pay attention to what they are doing now. The same goes with our practice. There is immense beauty at every single stage of our yoga practice. Witness this beauty and you'll be even more amazed, proud and rewarded when you blossom into the next phase of the asana (which you will, for sure).
If you appreciate the workings of your body right now and move away from future projections or where you want the pose to go, you tap into the genius of your body. You fine tune your awareness and you notice.
You notice which part of your body has to work to get into a certain pose, which part of the body could be focused on, which part should be strengthened or opened. You notice where you should back off to keep your body safe and where you could effort more in order to progress.
And then, when you finally hold that handstand or lift your feet off the ground in crow, you will have the BIGGEST appreciation for your body and what it did to get you there. Like a loved one you watch grow before your eyes, you will be so wildly IN LOVE with your body that you will receive a much greater gift than the advanced pose - the gift of falling in love with yourself all over again.
I feel blessed that each time I get on my mat I have the opportunity to fall in love with myself again. I have the opportunity to let the subtle genius of my body speak loudly. I get to celebrate where I am now.
I get to remember the recipe for a sweet spot:
inner listening + effort + expansion...all doused in breath.
Honoring your progress and your many sweet spots,
Now it's your turn! Meet me in the comments section below - I'd love to hear from you! What does it feel like to arrive in your sweet spot? Which yoga pose feels really good in your body? Is there a certain pose that brings you to a place of complete presence, connection and deliciousness?