For instance, I start the series off ( half moon to sides and back bend) pretty much as written. I need the abdominal/front panel stretch as well as the obliquel/lateral line stretch so I do the poses as prescribed. What I DON'T do is try to advance the stretches by PUSHING into them, or forcing the position.AS everyone should know a stretch taken to it's end range of motion will elicit a STRETCH REFLEX creating a contraction, NOT a elongation of the muscle.
So I do as Pavel has taught and I know from years of stretching for gymnastics and RELAX INTO THE STRETCH.Not to say I don't try to advance the position but I do not create antagonist contractions in the muscles I am trying to get to release!
So why go to the class if I am not going to follow "instructions"?
First,my wife digs it and I get major points for going. 'Nuff said.
Second , its tough to find a heated room to stretch in and people get weird if you try to stretch in the sauna. The intense heat makes stretching out way easier. And thats my goal, getting stretched out WHERE I need to. Not where I don't. I LOVE to sweat big like that too.Your skin is your largest elimination organ and I believe intense sweating is very healing and healthful.
Third, as with most things that are difficult or uncomfortable to do it's great to have a set time and place, as well as environmental support to force you to: get 'er dun.Going to 'class' accomlishes that. Same as having a set appointment with a trainer or coach makes it easier.
Back to the modifications.
In the 'awkward pose' squat series I do the first one SOP , but totally change the toe squat as I need my ankles more open,not my calf stronger. So, I do it flat footed and focus on the moveing the knee forward to create ankle stretch. Nothing else is changed. I don't for a second buy "the pose doesnt start until the head touches the knee or some such nonsense line like that they are trying to sell.Posture is the begining and end of all movement and the pose starts when you try to get into it.
The teacher says get on my toes. I say ' no'and work my ankle flexibilty AS I do the rest of the movment 99% SOP.She gets upset but too bad so sad.I do think though I have to speak with them prior to class so they leave me alone. They get the message pretty quickly and they dont have a lot of time for personal interaction anyway. They have a script to recite.
For eagle poses I can barely get my shoulders open enough to wrap ONE arm around the elbow so this is a disaster from the start.But it is still working towards opening up my shoulders so it's all good in my book. Plus, it really challenges my entire leg strength and balance for the one legged stand part.But, I have to get into the position my own way. Won't work at all otherwise.
Now ,on the standing head to knee pose I really have some issues. They say if I can't grab the undersides of my foot with both hands I should work on that and just hold the leg at 90 degrees until I can just reach the foot.For me the importance of this pose is how it stretches my very tight left hammy and calf and I CAN get the leg prefectly straight out IF I can get into the pose my own way.THEY say I should hold up the knee which totally forks up my left rectus femoris ALREADY WAY TOO TIGHT! I don't need more strength there I need to extend the leg and open up my hammy. They always admonish me for doing so. I do it anyway. It's my Yoga, as my wife says. Not Bikrams. I'm paying them anyway.I'm still doing the basic pose.
On the standing bow pulling pose I also could get into it if I could get some help, or use a prop, to get my pretty much unbendable left leg into the position.Otherwise I just standin there with the leg up to the rear creating a pretty decent left glute work when what I really need is to get hold of that leg by any means necessary and work on bending the knee more. I'm working on this one.
The other things that drives me totally nuts is their idea that when doing flexion poses,where the goal is to get head or chest totally on the thighs or knees that pushing into it focusing on the BACK is 180 degree opposite of what they should be focusing on; namely getting the abs to fire so the back muscles can release! This is craziness! trying to force a facilitated back to go deeper into an already too tight position just makes it tighter!
Bretts demo on how to increase the standing toe touch by activating the adductors and glutes demonstrates this perfectly. BUt NEVER a cue about the abs when doing forward flexion moves! OR never a word about the feet when doing one foot poses. Nutso.
Plus, excuse me, but you CAN'T inhale when you have your navel pulled to your spine.It has to be pushed out first so the diaphragm can work. Oh you can but you have to breathe through the upper chest,not a good idea especially if you have tight traps. But noone says a word about he diaphragm or letting the waist out before you pull it in DURING EXHALATION not inhalation. This isn't my opinion but the way the body really works.There has been very little emphasis on really breathing through the poses as well. Perhaps they do more in other classes but I haven't heard it yet.
I could go on but you get the general idea. Some of the poses I can follow their lead exactly. Those where my orthopedic restriction and requirements don't preclude me from doing so. I am not being obstinate for no reason. Nor do I not have a beginners mind hat on. I do. It's just that I am open to learning these poses and am willing to be very bad at them for as long as it takes to make some progress.Thats my beginners mind. I have spent my life learning how to do physical things that I didn't know how to do.Mostly by trial and error and the use of my mind and visualization.I know how to go slowly and progress.One of the most important things I have finally learned is to make sure to listen to my instinct. Follow your gut. It is rarely wrong. But things do tend to go wrong when I ignore it.
So I don't anymore.Especially when it comes to exercise and training.
So I will continue to go to class and progress my poses to the desired shapes and positions the best way I know how. by listening very closely to the feedback my body tells me as I attempt new things. Or things I haven't done in many years.