Let's face it. Not every human is perfect and no one is capable of doing everything. The same applies to yoga.
Some of my students face issues with flexibility, some with strength, others with balance, and so on.
"Is it okay if I can't do the bakkasana (cow pose)?"
"Is it alright if I can't do a headstand without wall support?"
These are some of the questions that have been posed to me, and my answer to them have always been "You can, just keep practising."
In reality, what matters is mastering a pose or technique, without hurting yourself.
You may be pushing 60 and just recently yoga, to find that some poses are out of your flexibility or capability range. Or you are still young, but have some health conditions that prevents you from mastering certain poses. Both the above scenarios are perfectly okay.
Here are five tips to those who may face struggles in achieving or mastering certain yoga poses (asanas)
1) It's about the journey, not the resultDo not feel inferior or demotivated if you cannot perform a pose that your fellow yoga practitioners can do. Keep the practice going and technique right, and remember to adjust the alignment. Keep in mind that the core philosophy of yoga is healing and peace of mind. You are not supposed to become stressed or agitated with your own progress. Constant practice will one day get you where you want to be, just keep trying and never give up.
2) Never compare yourself with othersThis is against the purpose of learning yoga. In yoga, especially when it comes to performing asana, one must remember that every body is different and every individual progresses in a different way. The girl next to you who just joined the class may be doing better than you, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are doing bad. What you need then is to stop focusing on the physical aspect and start looking within you. If you follow your instructor to the best of your ability, you will get eventually get there.
3) Talk to your instructorYou are free to talk to your instructor about the challenges you face in achieving certain poses, let alone mastering them. Discuss with your instructor about the preparatory poses that might help you overcome the obstacle. Believe in yourself while seeking help from your master, and remember that it is alright if it takes months, or even years for you to achieve your target, as long as you don't give up.
4) BreatheThe fact is, some yoga poses are tougher than the others. No matter how much you huff and puff, you don't seem to be able to hold it. If you face this, don't lose hope as yet - just breathe and relax. This is because breathing right is an essential part of yoga, and deep breathing and relaxing will help you get into the right state of mind.
5) Use propsThe best way to perfect certain poses is by using some props. Use a wall as support for a headstand, or use a big yoga ball if you face back bending issues, or use a strap to pull your body in a forward bending pose. These "small steps" will lead to bigger achievements, as long as you are committed to doing them constantly. Many studies has shown that props have helped yoga practitioners to achieve poses that they were never able to achieve earlier. Take your time, eventually let go of the props and you may be able to hold the pose independently, one day.
All said and done, be reminded that yoga is a process of searching for the inner soul. The deeper you travel inside, the more control you will have over your physical body.
There is nothing to be ashamed about if you are unable to hold or complete a yoga poses, because yoga is not a competition to gauge who is more flexible, or stronger, but is a self-realization practice that provides you an internal journey that integrates the body, your senses, the mind and intelligence.
Nizha Periaswamy is a freelance writer and yoga teacher.