Saturday, January 22, 2011

Going Through The Motions

We got a puppy for Christmas! Daisy is a delightful Australian Shepherd, and we are all crazy about her. (I mean, who can resist a puppy? I never could.) She is just about the sweetest dog ever, and I have big plans to train her to have impeccable house manners... if you knew my kids, you might think that is funny.

Honestly, I will be happy if I can teach Daisy not to pee or poop in the house, and maybe a few basic commands. That's kind of as far as I got with the kids. I mean, can I really expect my dog to be better behaved than my children?

I've been feeling pretty good about our progress so far. Daisy knows "sit" and "down", and the house-training is going well. Or so I thought, until a week ago. We got up early on a cold and dank morning, and went straight outside to take care of business.  I told Daisy to "go potty", and like the good girl she is, she immediately squatted. For about a half a second. I knew there was no way she had gone to the bathroom, so I said "go potty" again, and again, she squatted for a brief moment, and looked to me for a treat. Was she kidding me?

I couldn't believe my sweet little puppy had tried to fake me out so she could get a puppy biscuit. Daisy was literally going through the motions and expecting a reward.  I was quite tickled by her cleverness, but it got me thinking about just how fruitless "going through the motions" can be for us humans. And since this blog is about dogs and yoga, I thought about - wait for it - how just going through the motions can negatively affect your yoga practice.

I like a good challenge. I like to push myself, especially physically, and though I turned to yoga looking for a gentle, mindful practice to help with my neck pain, I can't help but aspire to the more challenging asanas like Pincha Mayurasana (feathered peacock pose) and Hanumanasana (monkey pose). I want to master the hard stuff.

But Daisy's little stunt reminded me that I haven't even mastered the basics.

I have a confession to make. I can't do Uttanasana - a forward bend. Not a pretty one, not a real one. My hamstrings are so tight, it was a personal triumph when I could actually bend over and touch my toes. But I cannot fold my body in half. And so I go through the motions. Since Uttanasana is most often part of a sun-salutation sequence, it's easy to hide the fact that I'm struggling with it. I just go with the flow, thankful when the class moves on to a pose that is easier for me.

So I've decided to re-focus my efforts on building a strong foundation for my yoga practice. Instead of spending extra time at home to work on showy handstands and arm stands, I'm going to start from scratch with the basics, like Tadasana (mountain pose) and Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog), some yoga building blocks if you will. Because even the seemingly easiest yoga poses can build strength and improve balance and flexibility. What poses do you struggle with?

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