I've been doing yoga for about 1.5 years now. This last week I've been tweaking my practice a little bit in an effort to spur some improvement in the poses. My practice usually runs about 40 minutes, and over the last year and a half I've shown definite improvement. My goal about a year ago was to be able to do One-Legged King Pigeon Pose, and I'm just about there. I can't backbend fully to meet my foot, but I can bring the foot up without a strap and bring it almost to my back. For a girl built like me, I don't think that's too bad, so I feel pretty happy with my progress.
But I feel like I'm still lagging in some areas with basic poses. For instance, I have trouble getting my front leg into a nice 90 degree bend in Warrior II. I feel like that's something I should have been able to accomplish by now. I'm also still not able to move in and out of Four-Limbed Staff Pose very well yet; my hips sink right down to the floor before I can get from point A to point B.
So I've decided to do something a bit different: I'm doing fewer poses now in my asana practice. My asana practice has consisted up to now of some prep stretching poses (Potted Palm series), then the entire vinyasa flow series from the Yoga Step-by-Step DVD, then some balance and standing poses, followed by Bridge, Bound Angle, a leg stretch, and finally Savasana.
My new goal is do fewer poses, for now, so I can do them better. Instead of doing the entire vinyasa flow sequence, I now do only the sun salutations followed by the first third of the flow sequence, which involves the chaturanga-cobra-downward dog-Warrior II poses. This way I can concentrate on really getting Warrior II right. I feel like I've been concentrating more up to this point on holding an asana slightly improperly for longer when I should have been working on holding it correctly to start with, and then increasing my endurance in the pose.
And you know what? What an improvement. This weekend I began really focusing on Warrior II. I take the time to get into the pose and I stay in it properly, even if I can only do that for a couple of breaths. My leg is properly bent at 90 degrees, my back baby toe and edge of my foot is pushing against the mat to really stretch my back leg out and to give me support. I can only hold the pose for a couple of breaths, but it's amazing how I felt after I got out of it. Suddenly muscles in my inner thighs I didn't even know were there were feeling strong and worked out after my practice.
I think part of the reason that I haven't been very diligent about my form up to now is because I've been cutting myself some slack. I'm not a thin, lithe person; I'm carrying about 20 or so extra pounds right now (but about five fewer than a couple of months ago thanks to Yourself! Fitness) and given my large frame I can't snake myself into some poses, despite my almost unreasonable flexibility (I can put my feet behind my head without a problem, and have always been able to do that even before yoga).
But this month in Yoga Journal I saw a photo in their article about how yoga can help to lose weight. The photo was of a woman who looked a lot like me: curvy and full-bodied without looking like she was grossly overweight. She was blonde and had that same large Nordic frame that I have. And she was doing a perfect Warrior II, and she looked awesome doing it. And I thought, if she can do a perfect Warrior II, then I can do a perfect Warrior II. I know yoga isn't a competition or about being perfect (you're supposed to do what you can do and be with that), but the point of doing the asanas the way they're supposed to be done, with the right form and alignment, is to reap the maximum benefits from them.
Plus it's the only way I'm going to get that legendary yoga butt I keep reading so much about.