Are Modifications Just for Beginners?
Not if you are doing them right! No person on this planet can achieve every yoga shape perfectly every single time, and you really shouldn't want to. How boring would that be? And how would you grow in strength and flexibility?
Here's the reality of yoga class no one wants to look different (usually), and no one wants to be the person that has to go get a prop to keep up in class. The reality? No one cares about you and your practice, because they are all too concerned with themselves! No kidding, no one cares.
When a yoga instructor offers an alignment cue or modification it's because either a-someone is doing something really wrong, or 2- it's a difficult pose to get all the points in line so the next thing can line up so that you get the best possible pose.
So here is how it works- your yoga teacher (aka- me!) spent a long time learning anatomy, body kinetics, and the point of the shape I so easily call out in class. No shape is just a shape, and usually it's only part of a whole in terms of the bigger picture of the yoga sequence. When I create a class I usually have an endgame in mind- strengthen body part X, stretch muscle Y, or even to bring awareness to daily habits. I like forward folds because most of my non-yoga friends can't touch their toes anymore. So I figure my part in this crazy life is to make sure more people are wearing adult shoes and velcro shoes never come back in style. Again.
But I digress, modifications are there to help you find a better version of the shape until you can get the whole thing- maybe you modify once or twice in the class, maybe it's for a month of classes- eventually if you modify, you will get to the end game- I promise.
Binds- enhance a shape, so don't bind if you have to contort into gumby and lose the integrity of the pose. Blocks are there to bring the floor closer to your hands for a reason- use them, and straps aren't just for T-Rexes. Almost everyone needs a little help from time to time.
If it helps think of it this way: you didn't learn to read without first knowing letters, you had to learn each letter and the sounds it makes, the way it can work with other letters to make words and then the words make sentences, and so on. Yoga is the same- you need to build it up first, then you can string them along.
The next time you hear an instructor say "modify by..." or "use this prop..." leave your ego at the door and try it- you might have the best yoga class ever, and never hesitate to try a prop if you think it might help. Modify shapes and check in with your teacher after class. If you don't feel the sensation she is describing, maybe you need a different version of the shape.
Check out "Form & Function" in the Well Fed Yogi Virtual Studio and see how I modify four commonly misaligned poses. Then let me know what you think!