The seduction begins with the scent of sage wafting out to greet you, beckoning you into a low-lit space gently warmed by tea lights punctuating the perimeter of the room, and decorative heat lamps. The music swaddles you soothingly from surround sound speakers, inviting you to quietly find a place for your mat, and relax. You’re offered a blanket to keep you cozy, and a bolster to support your knees. The instructor offers a drop of lavender oil on your wrist, whispering that she’s glad you’re here. The ornately carved mantle placed near the front of the room supports a blue glass container, overflowing with daisies. The teaching assistants begin to gather the flowers to lay down at the top of each student’s mat as the instructor encourages you to soften the muscles of your face. She reminds you that beauty lives everywhere—in every thing and every one of us. She asks that you examine the beauty within, inviting gorgeous thoughts. She tells you to hug yourself, embracing your very favorite person. Tears form in your eyes as you realize that you, indeed, are a beautiful creature.
Can you see it? Feel and taste it? You can because the details inform your thoughts, and your thoughts fill in the gaps, creating sumptuous 3-D images that increase our drive and desire to get right into the practice. Thoughtful description with generous details allows us to truly imagine the story.
Every time we come to our mats, we tell the story of ourselves. If we are injured, the way we move, the shapes we take and the care we demonstrate educate our practice. If we’re full of verve, our desire for dynamic breath and the poses that ask more of our strength, flexibility, and stamina present themselves.
For some reason, the word ‘detail’ evokes something small and unnecessary, a superfluous luxury. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The details of the practice are precisely what draws us further in the direction of self-discovery.
We need direction, and the details are how we get there. They drive us to the destination that offers us the chance to actually feel versus going through the motions mindlessly.
If you get invited to someone’s house for dinner, think about the details you need. You need their address, that’s number one. You also need to know if there’s a dress code. What if it’s a Game of Thrones themed dinner party, and you show up in overalls and Vans? That would not be cool. Are you expected to bring a dish? Are there dietary considerations for the other guests? Who’s going? How many people are invited? Is it an open house or is dinner at a set time? Is it BYOB? All of these details matter, and also will determine if you accept or decline.
Let’s get back on the mat. Put yourself in Tadasana, Mountain Pose. If you’re not engaging anything, you’re simply in Standing There Pose. Sometimes, the details are hidden, and one has to look very closely to determine that something significant has changed. Have someone take a photo of you in Standing There Pose. Next, have them take your picture in Mountain Pose. Is it easy to tell the difference between the two? Perhaps if you look very closely. The difference in the way it feels will be obvious. Engagement is the answer. Go back to the scene of the yoga studio in the first paragraph of this article. Now, imagine a boring stark room with no music, no aromatherapy, and bright lighting. Does that seem nearly as appealing as the first scene? Hell no. Can you still practice yoga in the room with no attention to detail? Of course you can, but it will be a less glamorous experience.
Try Virabhadrasana II, Warrior Two. Start by taking the shape of the pose only, applying very little energy. Then make additions from the ground up. Begin with your feet, stretching your toes, and distributing your weight evenly. Make certain your knee is lined up safely over your toes. Aim for your front thigh to be as parallel to the ground as you can get it. Feel your inner thighs energetically reach for one another. Position your torso as directly over your hips as is possible. Feel your wing span increase, isometrically wrapping the muscles of your arms toward the bones. Breathe evenly and deeply. Again, the pose won’t look drastically different to the observer, but it will feel profoundly altered to you.
We are in constant conversation with ourselves. But are we listening? Think back to the last truly fantastic conversation you had with someone else. Describe it to yourself. Now, think about the most recent conversation you had that fell flat. Why? It all has to do with engagement. If you engage with a posture, adding in detail after detail, the experience is so much richer and more enjoyable, even if it’s more challenging. If you engage with your body, another person, or space, you feed off one another. Minimal effort produces only minor shifts. Pay close attention to details in everything, and you’ll reap innumerable rewards!
Lara Falberg is not just a yoga sequencing and music addict. Mostly, but not entirely. She's an assistant editor and SEO consultant for Healing Lifestyles and has been teaching yoga for twelve years. Trained in Atlanta, now residing in Columbus Ohio. Her new website, iworkbarefoot.com, is a yoga teacher resource offering verbals cues, mini-sequences, class themes, and studio reviews. She wrote a novel, Yoga Train, about the yoga teacher training experience. Find it on Amazon for Kindle. You can follow Lara on Instagram(@iworkbarefoot), Facebook, and Twitter.