In the early days of my practice, I stepped on my mat with a lot of ego. I would seek out the toughest classes on the schedule with the toughest teachers, and in class, the more advanced option of the pose tended to be the only option for me.
Yep, I was kind of a beast on the mat, fueled by stubborn hubris which got me into trouble at times because I attempted some poses way before I was ready to do them. Does this sound familiar to anyone out there? Even if you weren’t a beast, you likely can identify a few of them in your yoga class.
Now imagine suggesting a basics class to a person like this. Insert eye roll here, yes? But as a former maniacal yogi (my reform is thanks in large part to a few wise teachers and mentors who saw my overachieving tendencies from 5 mat-lengths away), I’m here to say taking a basics class can be a much more beneficial route instead of muscling, tearing, or breaking your way into an advanced practice.
Here are 3 simple (not easy!) reasons that you might consider the basics class on the schedule as a way of advancing your practice, not holding you back.
1. You Refine What You Know (The Perfectionists Might Like This)
All those basic alignment questions you might have had, but were too [!insert!] to ask tend to be answered in the average basics or foundational class. There is more opportunity to break down these poses since the targeted students are likely people who are doing it for the first time.
Did you know to pull your lower front ribs into your body in Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), bring your knee over the front heel in Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana 2), or tuck your tailbone in Tree (Vrksasana)? These kinds of details might be glossed over in an open or higher level class, but in a basics class, you can really hone in on the specifics.
And there is also something to be said about keeping things simple. When you’re in a basics class, even if you know three or four advanced variations of a pose, it doesn’t mean you need to do them every time. Rather, be open to experiencing the basic modifications (even use the props!) to truly understand the mechanics of the pose in its purest sense. It will inform your practice for the better for sure.
2. You Might Learn Something New (You Never Stop Learning, Really)
We know yoga offers many pathways to get to a pose, a technique or a state of being. When I pop into a basics class, I frequently find the teacher has another way of approaching a pose and describing a movement or a transition that is new and fresh for me.
Going back to the beginner’s mindset means opening yourself up to discovery again and again. Whether you’ve been practicing for years or one month, get ready for some eureka moments in a basics class like: Drawing in my navel CAN totally transform my low push-up (Chaturanga) or internally rotating my back leg and firming my front thigh makes this Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana) so much more bearable.
Yoga gives you the opportunity to be a lifetime student, and in a basics class you get to observe it in hi-def!
3. You Can Also Appreciate How Far You Have Come (Gracefully, Please!)
Though there’s always more to learn in yoga (and in life, really), there is something to be said for appreciating what you already know, and how much you’ve learned already. Remember that first shaky Downward Facing Dog and how you thought you wouldn’t be able to make it through another vinyasa after the first 20 minutes of class?
Well, when you keep practicing yoga, these moments are fewer as you develop your techniques, endurance and more skills are added to your tool kit. In a basics class, you can see this more readily. You might encounter poses that stopped you short in the past, but because of your dedication and stick-to-it-iveness, they become much more accessible and understandable. Y
ou can take a basics class to challenge your mind and body and prove to yourself that you CAN DO anything you set your mind to, likely with a little elbow grease and perhaps, a smile.
It Doesn’t Have To End Here, Folks.
There are definitely many more reasons to take your practice back to basics every now and again. Listing over 100 reasons is not my point. Rather, all you really need is one to get you to roll out the mat, and this one comes in the form of a question: Why the hell not?
So as a reformed yoga beast, I invite you, or anyone you see who could use a little shift in perspective, to get over any ego preventing you from enjoying yourself -- regardless of which level of class you’re in. Do be open to taking a basics class even if you’ve been rockin’ one-armed handstands and pretzel-like poses for years now.
You can still learn a thing or two, and shocker, it just might be something about yourself. Wink, wink.