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You are unique!
Read that sentence again. It is nothing new, but the implications of the statement are vast.
You are unique—what works for you, what suits your body, and your biology will be different from what works for other people. Your history and your biography are uniquely yours. The raw materials and forces that shaped you are different than mine.
It’s not surprising to find that your needs differ considerably from everyone else’s. Your prescriptions, your shoe size, the position of your driver’s seat in the car, which hand you use to write and throw, the way your lips curl when you smile, the curve of your spine, and the arches of your feet. All of these little and grand variations make you uniquely you.
So, why do we default to a belief that we are all the same inside? Why do we believe that there is only one way to do a yoga posture—one “right” way for everybody? Why do we believe that alignment cues are universal and that people should move their bodies the same way?
In the whole universe, there is no one like you.
You are not average, typical, or regular. You may share a few similar traits with other people. You may wear a medium-sized shirt like millions of others. Your shoe size may be the same as your sibling’s. You are made up of identically shaped protons, neutrons, and electrons, as is everyone you know. But, if we take a look at the whole of who you are, the ways these particular parts come together to form a “you,” you are totally and indisputably unique!
The nature of human variation has been largely ignored in both medicine and the fitness world (including the yoga industry). It is much more important to know what kind of person is doing the yoga pose as opposed to what sort of posture the person is doing.
Postures should be dynamic, living things because what’s right for one person is wrong for someone else. Whether it’s Downward Dog, Lotus, a headstand, or whatever, we want to reach out of the box (safely) to find what suits our body in all its unique proportions and glory.
As a yoga teacher, I often see and hear students comparing themselves. We say things like “I’m not flexible enough for (fill in the blank) pose.” The reality is that the anatomy we are born with dictates whether we can or cannot achieve a particular posture—and to what extent. So, play around with the poses, use props, enjoy your practice, and immerse yourself in the discovery of you!
As the famous saying goes, “Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” All variations are legal. Give self-love and compassion with each breath and ultimately love your lovely bones.