Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Challenge pose master Kathryn Budig offers some sage advice for beginning yogis craving more advanced asana.
A new yogi will inevitably experience at least one and likely many, many, many more moments of despair upon discovering the kind of seemingly death-defying yoga postures that would leave the average Joe unable to walk for weeks. In my experience, yoga beginners have two very specific responses to witnessing such postures, which often occur simultaneously.
Beginner Reaction #1: Defeat and disbelief.
Starting a new craft can be daunting. It’s like being dropped off in a foreign country without a translator. That being said, the only way to improve your skills is with practice. Just because something feels impossible now doesn’t mean it can’t be a normal action for you in the future.
Know that every person, regardless of how beautiful their practice may seem, has started with the same thought—I’ll never be able to do that. How did they move past it? They applied themselves, practiced hard, and continued to show up knowing that the potential burns inside of them.
Beginner Reaction #2: Obsession.
On the flipside of despair is the immediate response of needing a pose NOW. Witnessing advanced asana often kickstarts an almost chemical reaction of desire and need to achieve—NOW.
Why the rush? Maybe it’s a desire for approval, a nod to the ever-greedy ego, or an over-achieving personality. I can say this because I’ve been there myself. If something looks amazing, I want to do it. Oh, and ideally sooner than later!
The Most Advanced Approach: Don’t rush beyond the basics.
The problem with the “must-have-now” approach is simple: You’ll only ever be a beginner once, and it is an amazing place to be. It’s the joyful realm of unknown and constant wonder. It’s also a fantastic place to lay your foundation of awareness and safety in your physical body. Every practitioner, whether advanced or brand new, can benefit from going back to basics and strengthening the roots of their postures. If you rush into advanced yoga without understanding the basics, you may have moments of highs that will eventually come crumbling down with some sort of debilitating injury.
My point is: Enjoy the ride! You will reach a point sooner or later where you can do advanced postures and possibly even quite well! While that’s a lovely achievement, the journey to understanding them is quite rich and will never be repeated again. Know that there is no such thing as failure, only countless lessons to be learned. Keep your childlike wonder, hit the speed bumps with laughter, and know that all is coming right on time.
About Kathryn Budig
Kathryn Budig is the yoga teacher behind AIM TRUE, a regular writer for Yoga Journal, and a presenter at Yoga Journal LIVE!