In this piece of writing I want to look more closely at this idea of yoga being fun.
(I can hear some of you thinking: “WTF is Kat talking about? Exercise does not equal fun.”)
It’s radical, I know!
Let me unpack this a bit for you.
I think because of my long history growing up in gymnastics (10+ years), I really enjoy postural part of yoga practice. For me it feels exciting, playful and FUN. I genuinely enjoy doing it. That being said, not all shapes feel equally rewarding. Chaturanga Dandasana, for instance, has never been a favourite of mine. My upper body just isn’t naturally that strong so this half push up can feel like a total slog.
For the first 8 years of my yoga practice, Modo Yoga was my primary practice. I would do the 3-5 flows per class and hoped that with repetition and persistence, someday Chaturanga would feel easier
But I still wanted to get better at it for no other reason than wanting to struggle less in this part of the Modo series.
So I became curious about ways to develop strength. Strength development was never a focus in the dozen or so other yoga teacher trainings I had done but I did know that for overall health and quality of life, a decent amount of strength was recommended.
So I branched out from yoga studies and started to explore new ways of moving. In fact, I had to dip my toes into a Western approach to strength development to start to understand where my road blocks were with Chaturanga Dandasana. This is where I learned about the principles of
Progressive Overload (cue the church bells). Progressive Overload is an exercise principle which says that:
In order to develop strength, we have to expose our tissues to greater weight/repetitions/frequency over time (progressively).
Simply put, start with movements that are easier (where you already feel really strong and capable), then make them harder as you get stronger by doing them for longer, adding more weight or doing them with more frequency.
I started to incorporate regressions of Chaturanga (see: making it easier) to learn some basic shoulder and arm mechanics that I never learned based on functional anatomy. Then putting those pieces together and progressing them so that once my foundations were in place, I could focus on overall upper body strength development.
The approach actually worked! Six years later, my upper body is stronger than I’ve ever been and Chaturanga now feels like a 🌶 spicy 🌶 movement in class rather than a moment of bitter suffering. (See what I said there… SIX YEARS LATER!!! Strength development is SLOW if we do it in a sustainable way to prevent injury.)
Progressive overload informs how I sequence all my classes and it informs why I can serve so many different students of different levels of strength and ability at the same time. We can all be together, doing similar things, but we certainly don’t all look the same. Each student is getting the results that work best for THEM and where they’re at TODAY. It’s so inspiring.
I guess what I’m saying is that yoga postures are fun — they bring joy to your life — and therefore it’s worth the effort and time and energy to practice them. And because some yoga postures that are fun are also hard, it’s worth the effort and time and energy to develop our strength progressively over time.
This really is the thesis statement of my approach to teaching:
Yoga postures are both hard and fun.
Let’s work on the hard stuff together.
That way we can also have some fun while we’re at it!
The end 🤗
On that note... we've started a new semester at Katarina Yoga.
We’re exploring the movement and strength of the legs and arms through the actions of SINGLE LEG SQUATTING and PUSHING. We’re having fun with postures like Chair Pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, Push Ups and Pistol Squat progressions. The key thing is that we’re taking a slow and progressive approach to these movements and as our tissues adapt to these loads they becomes more accessible.
If you’re keen to come out to class grab a $40 intro month to my platform and come practice!
Your body will thank you for it.