Once we progress past the basics, we seem to believe that we’re done with them. I’ve seen this countless times in various areas of my own life. Writing, Aikido, yoga, running, etc. We assume that because we have dealt with the basics and understand them that we are finished learning from them. We assume that we cannot squeeze any more information out of them and that, put simply, the basics are too easy for us.
The truth of the matter is that we can all learn something from anything, especially if we approach it with an open mind. But there’s always something in the way of us opening our mind to the basics. Always.
One of the biggest problems is our ego. After all, we have worked hard to progress beyond warrior one and plank. We have worked hard to get flexible, look cool, and feel special. Right?There’s nothing wrong with this attitude. We have worked hard to get to where we are. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that. It’s not even arrogant.
What is arrogant is thinking that you can’t enjoy basic sequences or even find challenge in them because you are more flexible, you can hold the poses longer, and you “are” better than that.
Sure, maybe you can do the advanced things. But the beauty of basics is that they always offer a deeper level of understanding to those willing to dig.
There’s this movement in my martial art, Aikido, called “Tenkan”. It’s as basic as basic gets and you know, beginners struggle with it because it’s a new form of movement. But to think you can’t change it or play around with it because you have a higher rank is silly.
What’s going on with the hips? The core? Where’s my weight? Can I change that? What are the angles of my feet, my hips, my shoulders? Where’s my vision aimed and therefore, what’s the curve of my spine?
I could go on for hours…especially because that was just about the final posture.
Let’s take warrior one, a very basic pose, for example. When you get into that pose, run through a checklist. Bring awareness to every corner of your being and find a place you have neglected because I guarantee there is one. Now, I’m not going to create or run through a list here. Why? I want you to explore what’s too tight, what’s too loose, what feels good and bad, or what you want to change. There are so many ways to make something your own. Your yoga won’t look like mine and mine won’t look like someone else’s not because of skill level but because our bodies are different, our minds are different.
And if you don’t think your mind reflects in body movement, you’re not quite on the right path of thinking.
Okay cool, so we can learn always learn from the basics. But it still doesn’t feel challenging enough.
I get it. I really do understand. Maybe some of the basics will never feel physically challenging to you again. And I think that’s fine. I don’t think that you have to consider something “easy” because you aren’t shaking, sweating like a pig, and struggling to breathe. There are all sorts of inversions, arm balances, and crazy deep stretches that can accomplish this for those of us who are intermediate to advanced.
But those “easy” things offer us something else.
They offer us a mental workout. I personally think it’s extremely easy to do something challenging. Doesn’t make sense, I know. Hear me out. When there’s a challenge, when something is hard, there is a concrete obstacle in front of us. We have to do A even if A is extremely hard. A is the goal. It doesn’t matter how hard it is, we have something to push through and work through.
But those “easy” poses and flows, what about them? Well, there isn’t really a goal like hitting a pose or struggling to maintain breath is there? We aren’t really feeling the shaking of our muscles or the determination, the grit of our inner power and mind. We’re kinda just coasting through.
This is where it gets hard for me. When I’m not actively struggling or doing a hard, challenging workout or flow, my mind tells me I’m wasting my time. I could be working towards those big goals. I don’t idle well. But I should.
I use those lighter, easy practices that are full of basics to remind myself of two things: I need to let my self-perceptions go and I can use basics just as much as advanced poses to work towards big goals.
Because here’s the thing…why does it matter? Why do I have to do fancy stuff every day? It’s not be considered a yogi because if I’m doing yoga and working to adopt that healthy mindset then in western culture I can call myself that. What it boils down to is that I have to drop the negativity in my own mind. I have to let go of my ego, my fear, my agitation, everything and just embrace the silence of practice.
I will leave you with this. It’s easy to find something challenging and work towards a goal. It’s easy to put in hours of work and climb a mountain. It’s not as easy to know the peak exists up there but to stop and enjoy the lower altitudes. It’s not as easy to practice the “easy” things but it’s just as important. We cannot continue to only shoot for the stars when there is a lot of work to be done down here, just enjoying the moment and enjoying what it means to be alive.
Find a beginner’s flow. Look for the challenges that arise. Whether you’re antsy or bored or wanting to move onto something harder, stick with it and use those rising sprouts of negativity to learn about what you’re growing in yourself. How can you be better? How can you let go?