(Oh yes, this is going to be one of those insufferable "lessons on the mat so you can take it off the mat" posts.)
I teach from the bottom up.
If you've taken my classes, you already know this. Somewhere along the line, I dropped a lot (a LOT) of the conventional cues and conventional ways of getting into poses and instead started focusing on working from the ground upwards in practically everything.
There are a slew of reasons for it -- some of them safety-wise, some of them just-getting-you-to-use-different-muscles-wise -- but, generally, everything is done from the bottom up.
This goes double for any and all inversions (y'know, those times we go upside-down). Bad things will happen in my class if we are playing with inversions and I see you kick your legs up in the air and hope for the best.
Well, no, nothing bad is actually going to happen. I'll be watching you like a worried parent, but that's about it.
However, I *am* incredibly firm about starting from the ground up. Kicking your legs up -- whether it's into shoulderstand, handstand, or headstand -- is working from the top down. We kick up, flail a bit, and hope we didn't pull anything as we eventually tumble out.
What happens if we plug into the ground. Really secure our foundation. Use strong core muscles to draw the legs in. Think about pressing down so much that it gets a little easier to straighten those bent legs.
What happens if you work from the ground up.
There are a gazillion physiological reasons I do that (if you work with your muscles, those muscles can more or less communicate with each other; if you're kicking your legs into the air and using momentum, momentum don't give a shish kabob what's going on with your muscles. You're also a lot less likely to just dump a whole bunch of weight onto your shoulders/neck/head/etc if you go down the first route). But there's a huge psychological reason I do that.
When we work from the ground up, we work with what we've got, not what we wish we already had.
When we work from the ground up, we're not essentially throwing ourselves into the end result and hoping we can magically sustain it.
When we work from the ground up, we give ourselves time to grow and learn and evolve.
I say something very similar about our resting pose: savasana. Admit it, my fellow yoga peeps: how many times have we mentally kicked ourselves up into the supposed "end result" -- some ethereal Zenned-out bliss -- and then metaphorically kicked ourselves when we couldn't sustain it.
And -- why? Why do that to yourself? Why are you attempting to work with where you'd rather be instead of working with where you actually are? Why did you get so attached to one potential end result?
Ironically, if you worked from the ground up in savasana (and, for most of us, that starts with STOP JUDGING THE CRAP OUTTA YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOTS OF THOUGHTS DURING SAVASANA -- oh, did I yell that? Whoops) you'll actually have a much smoother time.
Same goes with life. What good does it do you essentially toss yourself into what you think your end goal should be and then kick yourself for not being able to sustain it?
Whether that's a career goal, a personal improvement, a whatever-you-want-it-to-be. Why do that to yourself? Why not start with what you have (which, for the most of us, that starts with STOP JUDGING THE CRAP OUTTA YOURSELF FOR BEING WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW -- oh, did I yell that? Whoops). Work from the ground up. Don't be so concerned with when you'll "graduate" to the next thing.
The thing is now. And now is all you got.
Be willing to work from the bottom up, because that's the only way anything will be sustainable.
So...yes, this was an insufferable "lessons on and off the mat" post. But I'm working with what I got (see what I did there?).