It’s been less than a week since I began the project of attempting all the asanas in Light on Yoga, and I’m already making adjustments.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is the first pose outlined in the book. I widen my feet apart in the asana to improve the alignment of my hips and my spine. Iyengar seems to anticipate this as a common adjustment, so I feel fairly in-keeping with the spirit of the pose. But, in Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose, 8* on the 60* difficulty scale), I must make broader adjustments to improve my alignment.
In Revloved Side Angle Pose, Iyengar keeps his back heel on the ground. This simple instruction adds an incredible layer of complexity to the twist. Keeping the back heel on the ground necessitates a heightened awareness of the back knee since the internal rotation of the back leg in Parivritta Parsvakonasana can lead to torquing the back knee in an effort to bring the torso deeper into the twist.
Today, when I attempted Parivritta Parsvakonasana as Iyengar describes it, I was immediately confronted by this challenge. I scanned the pages of Light on Yoga looking for some note to reassure me that, yes, of course this is a natural response and, yes, of course this is difficult. But, no! Iyengar just told me to tighten my back knee and “give a good twist to the spine.”
I was lost inside my frustration. I was irritated by my inability to follow the simplest instructions. If this is 8*, what awaits me at 60*? And then, horror of horrors, I spun my back heel up.
Suddenly, a new world of space opened up in my torso and I was deeper in the twist, with more length in my spine and more clarity in my mind. The internal rotation of my back leg felt natural and the inside of my back knee thanked me. I wasn’t in the asana exactly as Iyengar describes it, but I was finally able to access the sensations he describes: the intensity of the twist, the contraction of the abdomen, the blood circulating around the abdominal organs and the spine.
Pride, perfectionism, and sheer stubbornness find their way onto my mat from time to time. And, today, in Parivritta Parsvakonasana, they all had a front row seat. For a moment, I put my pride and my determination ahead of the innate wisdom of my body. The moment I did this – the moment I gave my mind the reins – I was lost. It was only when I took a deep breath and listened to my body that the path became clear. Turn the heel up! The space opened before me, the pose welcomed me in, and I knew this is where I needed to be all along.
We don’t have to be perfect to get it right. We just have to be ourselves.