There is no one right way to do anything, including yoga poses.

For the past few weeks in my yoga class, I’ve been encouraging participants to really make their practice their own. I’ve taken some of the more intimidating yoga asanas (poses) and vary them for what each unique body-mind needs. We’ve worked on handstands (without ever kicking up), standing balancing, and arm balances.

Arm balances had always been my nemesis. With a larger body and longer torso, I’ve always found it hard to get that sense of flying that you need for arm balances. Most of the time, I can’t even get my feet or hips up at all. I had basically decided these poses weren’t for me. (Which is a totally valid choice, btw.)

In the last two to three years, some of my teachers introduced me to the use of props in arm balances, including a chair and blocks. Take crow pose, for example:

Crow Pose on Your Back

Nicole demonstrating crow pose on the back. She is laying on her back, elbows tucked on the outside of her knees, which are drawn in toward the chest. Her shoulders are slightly raised off of the purple yoga mat beneath her.

While laying on the back, bring elbows into your knees using the strength of the core. This pose on your back requires just as much work (or more!), but removes the anxiety of balancing on your hands.

Crow Pose Sitting Upright in a Chair

Nicole seated in a folding chair resting on her purple yoga mat. Her arms are by her sides, palms facing downward in an active stance. Her knees are lifted slightly toward her chest, toes pointed down toward the floor.
Simply pushing down with your hands, pointing your toes and lifting the lower legs while sitting in a chair also gives you the strength and energy of the pose.

Right Side Up Crow Pose with a Chair and Blocks

Nicole sitting on a folding chair that is placed on her purple yoga mat. She is bending over, her outer arms pressed against the inside of her knees. She is bending forward, reaching to gray yoga blocks placed in front of her.
This gives you the basic shape of crow pose using the support of blocks and a chair to get your hips higher. It’s a fantastic way to feel into the shape of the pose without all the grunting, groaning and frustration to do it on the floor.

I show these variations to remind you that your body is wonderful the way it is. When we believe and practice this, we are resisting the racist, patriarchal and capitalist system that says there is only one right way to do a thing and you are probably not going to be able to do it (without spending a ton of money and time hustling to get it). The Instagram-able yoga photos you often see of people doing wild poses on a beach or on top of a mountain are tools of that toxic system. (Fellow teachers, can we just stop doing that, please?) Yoga is a practice of liberation. It’s a  practice that liberates us from the voices of the dominant culture that tell us, “You should do this,” and “You should look like this.’

Do poses, and life, in a way that fits you.

Are you inspired to practice? Join me for my weekly accessible restorative yoga class Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m. EST. In the March 2 practice, I will start a new series that will liberate us from two things that often intimidate us: prayer/meditation and yoga movement (asana). Start by signing up for your first class free.