By: Danielle Wilson
I’ve been living in a busy state of being for some time now. With my work schedule, alone, lingering from morning until night, life has assembled itself around fairly strict timelines and to-dos. I’m feeling super blessed, quite recently, to gain more flexibility and space around my everyday responsibilities. As my load lightens, I’m starting to venture out and attend classes outside of my typical regimen. I’m enjoying practicing (or just working out in general) at new times of day, with different teachers, and even various styles. The shift from my many months with limited availability for my practice, to this place in which I get to experiment and play with a whole lot of new, has brought so much insight to the time I spent buried in same-ness, the experience I’m now indulging (and thriving) in, and the transition in between.
Human beings crave stability—it’s one of our most substantial survival tactics, and one that’s lent to our evolution as the world’s most intelligent (sometimes that’s arguable, in my opinion) species. So, when we find something that works for us, we tend to stick to it. This innate behavior is partially to blame for the stagnation that can come about in our practice. Failing to mix it up cultivates comfortability, and comfortability breeds narrow mindedness, limited growth, and an increasing fear of new. When it comes to yoga, attending one style, or one instructor’s classes will still build strength, manifest peace, and get you on the path of brilliant internal work, but if you’re truly looking to get the most out of your practice, variety is where it’s at!
In dance, the more teachers and choreographers you study under, the closer you get to discovering precisely who YOU are as a mover. Studying under one instructor can make you an unbelievable dancer, but you’ll end up becoming an almost identical replica of your teacher: their movement quality, musicality, even the nuances in their style will all regurgitate themselves through you. In order to become the most authentic, and therefore unique version of your dancer, you must saturate yourself in styles across the board. This training method allows you to pick and choose between the cues and forms of expression of many movers, eventually becoming a dancing jambalaya of organic movement, rather than molding yourself into a clone-like version of one.
I believe this principle for growth and authenticity is shared by both dance and yoga. Now that I am finally back to an eclectic practicing schedule, I feel more engaged in each class I take; the comfortability of taking the same instructor’s class every time you hit your mat causes you to begin arriving with more concrete expectations, and what does that catalyze? The more solidified your expectations, the more resistance you experience when they are challenged. Even when these expectations are met, the habitual essence of it all leaves space for your mind to wander and your body to sink into absent-minded movement. Switching up time slots, teachers, and styles keeps me excited and on my toes, and I think you’ll quickly feel the same if you can make it over the resistant hump of reaching outside that stubborn comfort zone. Your brain and body will be challenged to utilize cues from different teachers in different flows; it’s an ongoing experiment with your body and the way it works, moves, thinks, and celebrates its aliveness!
The nature of asana practice is that it serves to be symbolic of life: the lessons you learn and internal patterns you recognize on your mat reflect and apply directly to every other area of life. If yoga is the outlet that brings you peace, guides and assists your internal journey, and stimulates growth on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels, then instilling variety in your practice is a must. It will teach and support a supple mindset, a softness around expectations, a freedom from stagnation, and an exponential rate of personal growth!
So, make a spontaneous decision, go to that class you’ve been intrigued about, introduce yourself to a new instructor, and enjoy the radiant excitement and joy that come with mixing things up!