One of the things that I struggle with in yoga is having a practice with appropriate ambition while avoiding unhealthy striving. I believe the body should open naturally and slowly rather than being pushed or pulled into poses. However I also believe that yoga practitioners should challenge themselves on occasion so that they can see what their bodies are capable of. Sometimes we can have pleasant surprises when we explore poses outside our comfort zone. This can keep our yoga practice fresh and inspiring. In my own practicecwhen I am pushing my “asana envelope” I always return to three basic questions to see if I have gone too far.
- Can I breathe slowly and naturally?
- Can I relax my face, especially my jaw?
- Can I let my shoulders drop away from my ears, softening them?
Usually if I say no to any of those things it is time to come out of the pose. I think a huge part of yoga is the art of finding our strength in a soft calm place.