As you can see, I've been brushing up on my anatomy.
This is part preparation for my upcoming fall schedule, and part coping mechanism for my upcoming fall schedule anxiety. Sometimes I forget that I often know what I'm talking about. Imposter syndrome, it's a thing.
When caught-up in the anatomical nuts and bolts of it, I find it's easy to forget how lovely yoga is. Not as a mystical cure-all for life, but as a simple road map for using the felt sense of my body to find my way back to myself again and again. It's nice. I like it. And at times like this, I need that way more than I need a breakdown of the glenohumeral joint.
However, I also like my, and everyone else's, shoulders intact so anatomical study is important. It's just not everything.
As you can see, I've been brushing up on my anatomy.
It always arises quietly. A gentle, soft whisper of truth;
"I have no idea what the hell I'm doing."
My mind recognizing the totality of what it doesn't know and cannot control can be terrifying. Each and every time it happens. The truth may set us free, but it's often preceded by an open palmed smack of humility.
For years my reaction to this was the compulsive need to do something, anything to regain the feeling I had my proverbial shit together. Another job, another cleanse, another chatarunga, another over opinionated fb post. Like many, I mistook confusion for weakness and control for strength and suffered for it. This isn't something I've overcome. I work with it daily to varying degrees of success.
To tie this post up in a pretty sutra bow is tempting, but that would negate the point. I think we yoga folks are sometimes too quick to gloss over our vulnerably with teachings. It bypasses our humanity. Take it from a recovering Advaita Vedantist- it's easy for transcendence to become just another form of control. So, for your benefit and mine I'm not going to attempt to write anything wise at all. Instead I'll simply say that we are all, whether we want to admit it or not, winging it. Personally, I always find that comforting.
Ten years of practicing wide angle forward bends looks like this. I say ten because for the first 3-4 years I practiced I usually ran and hid in the washroom whenever it was taught. It's not that I didn't like the pose. It's that I was embarrassed at how horrible I was at it. Despite all the props and good intentions my teachers offered my pelvis just would not budge. After a year of struggling with it I just gave up. Contrary to what my teacher at the time predicted, my 'surrender' did nothing to melt my hamstrings.
There's a popular quote out there that goes something like, "It's not about touching your toes, it about all the lessons you learn on the way down." For my fellow long-levered, hamstring-challenged yogis I offer this variation, "It's not about touching your toes. The ability to touch a body-part is not indicative of wisdom."
My Iyngar teacher told me I was being lazy. My restorative teacher told me I needed to relax.
My Yin teacher told me I needed to stretch more. My Forrest yoga teacher told me I needed more strength.
My Yoga Works teacher told me anatomical based sequencing was essential. My Vini yoga teacher said anatomy knowledge wasn’t necessary if I listened to my body.
My classical hatha teacher told me belly breath would ground me. My other classical hatha teacher told me too much belly breath would harm my internal organs.
My biomechanics teacher told me I needed more variety of movement. My Ashtanga teacher told me variation was a way of avoiding discomfort.
My kundalini teacher told me my manipura chakra was out of balance. My Advaita Vedanta teacher told me healing chakras would not bring peace to my mind.
My Zen teacher told me I was the absolute and nothing in this physical world mattered. My Reiki teacher told me emotions stay in the body until we are ready to process them.
My Theravada Meditation teacher told me I ruminate too much. A guy at the bus stop told me an unexamined life wasn’t worth living.
And every one of them was right.
Each teacher and philosophy had something brilliant to offer, and at the same time every one of them was incomplete in some way. When it comes to people and the structures we create absolute truths simply don’t exist. Dogma may be comfy but it doesn’t get any of us very far. It’s taken me 14 years of confusion and disappointment to come to the realization that there really is no one correct method. The only time I worry about my yoga practice being misguided anymore is if it seems to be giving me all the answers.
Many of my posts grow out what I notice myself thinking about during practice. No, the mind does not magically shut off during yoga- that's a myth. I notice thoughts such as these little nuggets from this past workshop with the inimitable Ana Forrest:
"Ana's walking by, quick,(scans body) what am I doing wrong?!"
"Hey look, my foot. I must grab it."
"I AM pressing down through my inner... Oh."
"Connect. Connnnnnect. F*cking connect already!"
"My boobs look really weird from this angle."
"I wonder if this tension stems from that time when in grade school when... "
"Why aren't they adjusting me?"
"Why are they adjusting me?!"
"I'm the soooo great at this because..."
"Is that a new mole? Cancer?"
This can all be quite entertaining when I don't try to control it. I like to view this inner dialogue not as anything wrong but as something similar to bad daytime tv- unnecessarily dramatic, often repetitive, and better left to play itself out in the background while I focus on more reality based things. It helps me relate to this well intentioned but often confused mind with a bit more compassion.
"Oh god, I forgot to put on deodorant."
And that one was true.
Competition among teachers is this icky, not often talked about fact of present day yoga. This is probably because it's a nice delusion we're above all of that because we are yogis. I don't think any of us are above it. I'm certainly not. Try as we might, it's hard not to be touched by competition and comparison in some way. Especially if we’ve had to wade into the tricky world of marketing. Some days it seems like my livelihood as a teacher depends on me convincing people that the mindful, bio-mechanically sound, trauma sensitive, open hearted, Kundalini snake coiled at the root of my pelvis is bigger than everyone else’s. For the record, it is not (although it is impressive).
Spoiler alert: like every other human being, most yoga teachers harbor the secret fear that we completely and utterly suck (Why? It's evolution. Neurobiology of Shame). While yoga and meditation can help us learn to work with this fear, we are all still triggered by it. On a clear day, I know that insecurity is universal. On an unclear day, it's only me. On a really unclear day it's only everyone else. Of course I want to be loved and accepted- it feels nice! And getting this want fulfilled by tons of people coming to my classes, liking my posts, and telling me I'm awesome is really tempting. Even when I know that pandering for attention turns me into a total pap of a teacher. It’s especially seductive if on that day I happen to have more attendees, likes, or comments than some other teacher. Then it gets downright juicy. It’s a nice quick fix for being human that generally last 3-5 minutes before I need another fix . Doing what I love for a living has proven to have unique challenges. Mainly that it’s hard to do anything out of pure love when my rent depends on it, and it’s downright impossible when my self-worth depends on it.
Our scrambling over one another to build ourselves up in this flooded market makes me sad- but it’s really no different than any other profession. I don't think any of us like it. I don’t think any of us know exactly what to do about it. Best solution I can come up with is to keep a compassionate eye on my own insecurities and try to play nice in the sandbox; “In my heart, there are two wolves: a wolf of love and a wolf of hate. It all depends on which one I feed each day.”
My practice inevitably always boils down to "don't be a jerk."
“The Universe Provides” or “Manifesting”
A friend and I were chatting a while back about how in our twenties we thought we were really great at manifesting but it turns out we were just really great at racking up credit card debt. Even if you do believe that positive thought will result in the universe providing all you need I think we can all agree that it definitely does not provide it at 19% interest. As nice as it would be if it were true, I’ve had to concede that the universe has better things to do than provide me with awesome boots and exotic travel. Come to think of it, so do I. If the universe in all its unfathomable glory played any part in this situation I suspect it was in the soft persistent message of, “I love you, now take some frickin’ responsibility for your life.”
The arm balance named after an ancient sage who was cursed by his father to be crippled in eight parts of his body. Something for all us yogis to aspire too. I am currently at four.
I love arm balances. They have few functional benefits and don’t add much value to life but they're fun and yes, when they pan out they can look really cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.
On days when the moon is doing… something, and Mercury is doing… something else- that results in me having insanely developed triceps- I float off the ground like Ashty himself. Other days, when the moon is doing… that other thing it does and Mercury has buggered off all together not even practicing to the mystical powers of ABBA can get my butt of the ground.
It took me years to build the upper body strength and coordination needed to achieve lift off. It’s taken me even longer to learn how to work with my body proportions in a way that allows me to do these poses in a safe way. With technically difficult poses it’s always helpful to remember that one method does not fit all body types. And even then with all my experience, awareness, and expertise - I still occasionally biff it.
The shadow self is a common topic in yoga and new age conversations. Simply put it's the parts of ourselves we deem unsavory and try to reject. It's our dark side. But not the dark side in the cool Darth Vader kinda way, usually more in the whiny rage-fit teenager Kylo Ren kinda way. Regardless of what we call it we all have one in some form - it's part of the package that comes with being human.
After my first silent retreat in 2009- the one where I ate the obscene amount of peanut butter- I wrote down a summary of what I deemed my shadow self. The list included my being a selfish, stubborn, insecure, judgmental, capricious, aversive, fearful, guilt trippin' loner with an affinity for drama. My intention with the list, after rolling around in self-pity for awhile, was to search out ways to heal these not-so-sparkly bits. Maybe with a bit of luck transcend them altogether. I figured it'd take me a couple years of dedicated practice to get a handle on all of it.
Seven years later here I am a selfish, stubborn, insecure, judgmental, capricious, aversive, fearful, guilt trippin' loner with an affinity for drama... and a few more wrinkles. So reads my online dating profile. The only change in the past seven years, or rather the only one that has given me any lasting peace, is the slow steady dissolution of the belief that I need to be any different. Sometimes the only thing wrong with us is the belief that there's something wrong with us. Seeing that can change everything.
We are all one.
That we are all one is a beautiful philosophy- one that is easily reduced to a warm homogeneous fuzzy. It's similar to those blankets with arms in them that came out a few years ago. Y’know, those ones we all secretly wanted. It feels pretty nice but it degrades us all.
My concern with the whole oneness thing is it easily feeds the unconscious belief that we should all act and live in the same way. For example: Why do so many of us, after our first taste of the yoga koolaid, start dressing like some sort of hipster Sadhu and ending every sentence with sending someone "love and light"? Nothing against love or light or Sadhus- I’m fond of them all. Well, all except that one self-professed Sadhu in Varanasi who tried to give me a back massage. I definitely was not one with that. All I’m saying it’s a little suspect that the revelation of our innate interconnection happens to look and act the same in so many of us. Let's be honest, it's a wee bit culty. While certainly not the case for everyone, I know my mala beads and soft vacant gaze back in the day were never an honest expression of divine unity. They were part of a stock image that I tried hopefully, then later desperately, to mold myself into.
To our greater detriment, oneness can also easily become an excuse to disregard diversity when it doesn’t suit us. This one just ain’t funny. Another example from my sullied yogic past: say you came to my class and what you brought with you (physically, mentally, socially) was beyond my personal and professional understanding. A situation that was bound to happen because, y’know, I’m human. I could have attempted to learn something from you which would have challenged some of my existing paradigms and likely involved some uncomfortable self-inquiry (who doesn’t love that?!). But instead I chose the easy way out. Transcending the uncomfortable situation with the inner motto of “we are all one anyway” likely indicated to you with a knowing yet somewhat creepy stare and then going about business as usual- oblivious to how this might affect you. It does seem rather equanimeous, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s using self-serving bits of philosophy to justify apathy towards the experiences of others. That's the danger of the oneness bubble- it easily becomes exclusive.
We are, in a great and inexplicable sense, all one but in day to day life we are individual people who are very different. This difference hungers for both recognition and expression. It deserves each of our attention, reflection, and willingness to be vulnerable to it. To my unenlightened mind oneness has come to mean that regardless of your lifestyle, culture, finances, age, political views, gender, physicality, or that metal ball sack hanging off the back of your truck that because you exist you deserve my respect. And I in turn deserve yours. And yeah, because I am human I usually miraculously fail at this. Case in point- referring to some very nice people as hipster sadhus.
An astrologist I once visited in India told me this pose was good for me spiritually and to practice it regularly. He also told me that it was my karma to become a fashion model but since I was too old and too big it was a very good thing I was studying yoga. He then told me to buy an emerald pinky ring from his buddy next door for my heart chakra and that I really needed to "develop myself in erotica." That last comment was when I began to doubt his legitimacy, and look for the closest exit. For these reasons, along with wanting to keep my hip rotators intact, I have not taken his advice. I'd say I don't do this pose anymore, but that would imply that there was a time when I actually could. Word to the wise- don't seek life advice from someone who operates out of the back of a trinket shop. Y' live, y' learn.
I have been to other astrologers in India who were legit and frighteningly bang-on with their advice. But while I like Astrology it has never really been my thing. Mostly because we Aries' are so often described as naive dickheads and who the hell wants to own up to being that?!
What is it about us yoga people that we feel we need to do yoga everywhere? I don't mean a little maintenance while we're out and about, I’m talking about big expressive potentially hurt myself poses like the one pictured above- urdhva dhanurasana on a backhoe, in the Himalayas. Was that really necessary or wise? While I like to think I’ve learned something in the seven years since apparently I’m still prone to fits of agonizing public bendiness. This past summer I tried to force my body into an arm balance for a photo after walking twenty km carrying a thirty pound pack. My friend took lovely photos, I posted some of them, they got a lot of likes and nice comments, and my back and hips rightly hated me for some time after. When we got back to the campsite that night another hiker had rolled out her mat and was struggling her way into dancers pose (if you don’t know what that is think of the last possible thing your body would want to do after walking uphill all day). Even before social media and yoga selfies were a thing I remember trying to stand on my head on a beach in Thailand at sunset. Why not just sit the eff down and enjoy the sunset? What the hell is wrong with us?! What is this need to spice every cool experience with physical yoga?
For me there always was (is) this absurd belief that these amazing experiences should be, needed to be, somehow better than what they already were. Mountains and sunsets are amazing and all, but there must be more to be had than simply the enjoyment of them. And yoga must be the way to get that something more even if my ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart pose makes my low back hurt for days. More of what exactly you ask? Probably something deeply real and spiritual that would finally fulfill me as a person and look something like an ad I saw for Special K in the 90's. That sounds ridiculous, but consumer culture fueled neurosis said aloud often does. That’s the core of it- these experiences alone can’t and never will be enough because the poptart culture I live in has led me to believe I’m never enough. Everyday I’m bombarded with messages telling me I need to do, buy, know, be, and manifest more in order to be acceptable. And it’s so sneaky and pervasive that before you can say, "Hey look! Tori broke her ass again attempting to increase her worth as a human being by doing eka pada bakasana on top of a bear in a snowstorm!" yoga can become just another way I manically try to up my worth rather than being a means of freeing me from this vicious cycle as was intended. . It’s not true by the way, that I (or you) am not enough- in addition to being ridiculous consumer culture fueled neurosis is also largely bullshit.
Or maybe I’m completely off base and it’s as simple as doing headstand and taking cool photos is a fun thing to do. I dunno. Is anyone else suddenly craving poptarts?
I've been concerned over my inability to write these past few weeks. I sit at my computer and it's the last place I want to be. Is it writer's block? Is the "I have a blog? Who the eff has a blog?!" weirdness getting to me? Is it some sort of self-sabotaging behavior stemming from my childhood? Oh my god, what is going on?! I must be broken. Maybe I need to meditate more... or buy new boots. Probably both.
The far less dramatic, far more realistic answer is that I'm simply tired. It was a busy fall. An amazing fall chalk-full of classes, workshops, and new opportunities. And, naturally, it wore me out a little. That's how life works. Constant activity and growth, no matter how fun or worthwhile, is not sustainable. Lord knows I've tried. Last time it ended with me spending the better part of three months laying on my kitchen floor in 2013. Activity needs rest. The exciting needs the mundane. Happy needs some sad. Good hair days need poodle-with-paw-stuck-in-light-socket hair days. It's obvious, and it's easy to forget when it doesn't suit our plans. Like it or not it's just how reality rolls.
So, I'm going to do a rare thing and actually take my own advice. Y'know, that whole self care thing. Rather than reality inevitably kicking my ass, as it is so adept at doing, I'm choosing to detox from busy this month. I'm going enjoy my walks, books, and floor-time guilt free. And when I'm ready to bare my practice, soul, and dumb selfies online again, I will. I still have pages of potential "bad at's" to share with you. Just not right now.
I know that's not how social media works (post constantly or be forgotten!!!) but it's how I work, so fuck it.
Happy holidays :-)
Cultural appropriation is a serious issue. My objective with this somewhat amusing story is not to take away from or negate it's very real implications for people and cultures. This is one example of cultural appropriation from my own life and one of the many learning opportunities that has led me to my current approach to yoga and western yoga culture. And because it's me, of course it's slightly ridiculous.
Hello, my name is Tori, and I have a really idiotic tattoo on my head.
Back in my early 20's when, like all people at this age, I was certainly wise beyond my years, I went on my first big trip abroad to Thailand and India. Thailand for partying, India for penance. I had recently downed the born-again yoga koolaid and planned volunteering with an Indian NGO as seva, or selfless service. Not that the NGO (Parikrma, you do amazing work) really needed me or my 24-year-old expertise but going made me feel like an awesome person and honestly that mattered more to me at the time. Obviously, I hadn't really grasped the selfless concept. The Thailand part of the trip was as part of a large group. I can't remember how exactly the idea for a group tattoo session came about, but given that we were a bunch of twenty-somethings in Kho Phi Phi, alcohol and Redbull were definitely involved.
Now, getting a tattoo when you're hungover/possibly still kinda drunk is never a good idea. Getting the Sanskrit word for 'Ultimate Truth' which a friend printed off Google tattooed on your head in a shop on a Thai beach while hungover/possibly still kinda drunk is just the worst idea ever. I own that.
The tattoo artist, who to his credit did a lovely job on the design behind my right ear, decided that the way 'Sat' (if that's even what it said) looked in Sanskrit wasn't the right shape for my left ear. So, in our wisdom we decided break up the letters and place them vertically. I did briefly wonder if it would still have the same meaning. But figured why wouldn't it? If you break up the English letters in 'truth' you still get the same meaning. Why would Sanskrit be any different??? How about because it's a different freakin' language with a totally different letter system! Sigh. This might be a good time to mention that I grew up in small town rural Alberta.
My tattoo would likely be considered offensive if anyone who spoke Hindi could actually read it. When I got to India and proudly showed it off no one had any idea what it said. One guy asked if it was French. I asked five different people to translate it before I finally conceded that it wasn't Sanskrit. When I got back to Canada I told people is was Sanskrit anyway.
You could say my tattoo is the Indian equivalent of that George Carlin joke about the wannabe with a Chinese caricature tattoo that says 'beef with broccoli.' Though my now faded and blurry blobs would probably translate into something like, 'Don't ask a Thai dude to write on your head in googled Sanskrit.' or 'If ever you get too high on your horse, remember you have this.' Mostly it just looks like a dyslectic bird crapped on my head.
I started writing this post three months ago and I'm still not satisfied. Probably because for all my indignation over the misuse of mala necklaces, dream catchers, and other sacred objects in western yoga culture the fact remains that I'm a privileged white gal practicing and teaching an Indian tradition. It's really hard if not impossible to do that without acting like an offensive twit sometimes. To anyone I have ever offended- I am sorry. I have no answers or excuses- all I can say is I'm working on it.
I think the exchange of wisdom across cultures is a great thing. We have so much to learn from each other. The problem, as I see it, with us western yogis is that it is not an exchange. We just take stuff. We borrow bits and pieces of the exotic that appeal to us without any regard for the people it came from- their history or their present circumstances. We morph traditions, practices, and teachings to fit our western paradigms and in the process loose their original intent. They become superficial or, to our greater detriment, another way to reaffirm what we already want to believe. It's a situation that degrades everyone involved.
Yoga is changing. And it can be hard to differentiate between which changes are evolution and which are commodification. I'm continually trying to find some sort of reconciliation between traditional teachings and practicing in a way that speaks to the realities of modern western life. Not dogma, but also not frivolity with the sacred. It's a tough one.
Should westerners stop practicing yoga altogether. No, there's no denying that many of us benefit from it. Should we question what we're practicing/wearing/buying/chanting and its origins, and change our ways based in what we find? I think so. It's not an answer but it's a start. Yoga has many aspects but blind faith is not one of them.
Wondering where to start? Here are a few articles and videos to get you started.
What is cultural appropriation: https://yogaappropriation.wordpress.com/
What you can do: http://upliftconnect.com/decolonize-your-yoga/
A new bad at yoga segment called Tori Stories.
There are a few stories I could tell about that first silent retreat in India in 2008 but I think this is my favorite.
I got it into my silly western brain that the best way to do this retreat was on my own- no teachers and no support. Y'know, just lock myself in a room for ten days, deal with my shit, and then emerge a transcendent being of light n' stuff. Awesome!
Upon arriving at the Santosh Puri ashram this hard core introspection I was told that while there I would only be fed twice a day. Great, I thought, in addition to deepening my yoga and meditation practice, I'll also loose some weight! Because those two always go hand in hand, right? I knew at the time I was an emotional eater but thought somehow that this, like all my problems, hadn't followed me to the exotic local. Silly Rabbit.
So, armed only with my neurosis and a smuggled in jar of peanut butter I set out to become the John Wayne of bodhisattvas in ten days. Ten days. Ok, I tell people it was ten days, I actually only lasted seven. Six if you count talking to a dog.
The first few days I mostly daydreamed and it was all bliss. Day three my mind inevitably got bored, looked back at itself and said "ew." Shit got real fast and I started feeling all the feelings. I mean ALL the feelings. I had spent the fist 26 years of my life eating my feelings. Feeling them was new. I didn't like it. Bring on the peanut butter.
An image that will stick with me forever is me sitting alone in my wee ashram room, dressed all in white, having just completed the daily puja... a perfect enlightened selfie scene except for that I'm crying, freaking out, and using the handle of a toothbrush to try and scrape the last bits of peanut butter out the bottom of a jar. Talk about #nofilter My silence didn't last long after that.
In the years since I've sat in organized silent retreats it really is an amazing experience. Don't get me wrong- there are always days so uncomfortable I want to eat my pillow but I have the wisdom of a teacher whose been doing this for 20 plus years to help me hold steady.
Lesson: While my growth as person is ultimately a solo endeavor and my responsibility alone; without guidance or help along the way I'm a just making an ass of myself.
I have a lazy side ass. It’s sad, but true.
It’s part of a chain that starts at my easily pronated feet and goes all the way up through my internally rotated femurs. Basically my legs twist towards each other at my hip, knee, and ankle joints partly due to lack of proper muscular support from my deep hip rotators and literal hip (side ass) muscles. And that’s after twelve years of yoga and self-proclaimed yoga butt.
I’m very proud of that butt, by the way. You might even say I’m attached to it. Wah-wah.
The reality is that I can look good in stretchy pants but still have muscles that don’t really know their purpose in my body. Oh reality, you are such a mischievous and humbling thing. Appearance and health are two very different things. I was a little pissed when that truth really hit me. It means I have to be honest with myself every time I physically practice yoga, every time I want to buy health supplements or ‘detox’ my body, and even why I meditate. Is it supporting my well being or is it wanting to look hot? (hot i.e. control i.e. suffering) Hot in this case meaning some kind of shit-free spiritually endowed Wonder Woman… hmmm that actually sounds rather terrifying.
But back to that hot piece of lazy side ass. There is an effective and functional fix for both it and my oft confused legs. It’s called the pelvic list. I won’t get into the how-to specifics but if you Youtube it you’ll find a ton of instructional videos. It looks easy enough- basically standing on one leg- but appearances are deceiving. Best thing about it? I can do it covertly in public without looking like a complete newsh-bag (new-age-douche-bag). #newshbag
Now THAT one will go viral!!
I had a nice post about lateral hip muscles all ready to go last night and then this happened. The idea to take the photo was 100% escapism. I hesitated about turning it into an actual post- yoga breakdown selfies seem like the first step on the dark path to funeral selfies.
Lots of us post about yoga's emotional component, which is great, but we usually pair these stories with photos of us looking all zen on a mountain or some shit. This is false advertising. I'm making up for it with this uncentered gem.
A yoga breakdown is like any other form of emotional/physical release- healthy, worthwhile, and uncomfortable as hell. And they usually look that way. All we can do is try our best to hold steady and stay present through that big mess of feelings and sensation. It always passes, eventually.
Why did this happen? I'm not sure. The reason isn't all that important. Sometimes it's obvious and other times it's not. My want to overanalyze is often just another way to escape the present reality. Bottom line, sometimes my body just needs to shake and cry. That might change with time and it might not. Best I can do is have the balls to let it happen.
#yogabreakdownselfie is about to go viral.
My foot's in my mouth, get it?!
As much as I would love to know everything there is know about yoga, and as tempted as I am sometimes to fake it, I really friggen don't. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a psychologist, and I'm certainly not any kind of enlightened being (I know that last one may come as a shock). Sure, I've picked up some things over the years but I'm certainly not an expert on anything or anyone. I'm wary of any teacher who implies they are.
I'm just a yoga teacher with an unnatural love of sleeping in and eating peanut butter off a spoon. And while I do have a fair amount of training and experience, I have no clue and absolutely no authority as to what's best for you. All I can do is maybe help you figure that out for yourself. That's what my best teachers have done and continue to do for me.
I try to think of modifications as a rule rather than an exception. It helps undo this pervasive tricky belief that a regular yoga practice looks the same for everyone- uber flexible, uber strong, uber oneness with everything... Whatever the hell that looks like.
I have the mobility, strength and technique to step my foot between my hands from downward dog butnonetheless in never quite makes it there. A combination of long legs and a bit o' junk in my front make it impossible. So, I've had to get creative.
The most straight forward modification I use is to simply use blocks under my hands. It works and my wrists love it. Also fairly straight forward is to just cut the step through out all together and create new ways to flow postures together.
My usual trick is to keep my pelvis really high as I shift more weight into my hands while popping my back foot forward a little. This gives me almost enough space to set my front foot down by my hand. Then I just scooch it forward. I step back in a similar fashion but on my fingertips to give me enough clearance. When it isn't enough, my foot dragging over the mat makes an awesome farty sound. Sometimes I make the awesome farty sound even when I don't drag my foot.
If you're looking for more ways to work with this little gem @diannebondyyoga has a couple great YouTube videos for modifying what she calls, "the dreaded step through."