There’s something very magical–mystical, even–about the yoga asana practice.
People seem to float on air, they twist themselves into inhuman shapes, they stretch themselves like rubber bands.
It can really seem like a practice that is reserved for an elite group of aliens from the Planet Pretzel, and inaccessible to most.
More than anything, yoga is math. It’s physics. And it’s architecture.
As it so happens, the same rules that govern building any sound structure also apply to our own bodies. There is no sorcery involved. Just logic.
An attuned teacher (like, say, me…just saying…) will be able to look at any pose and figure out how to align and balance it. It doesn’t mean yoga asana is easy, it just means it is truly accessible. If you have the materials (a body), and the tools (strength and flexibility) you can build the structure.
My recommendation: take videos of yourself practicing your most challenging poses. Then watch them over and over again–freeze framing when needed–to look for the imbalances. In fact, watch the videos frame-by-frame, and you should be able to exactly pinpoint the moment you lose the pose.
If it is a balance challenge, watch for the point where the pose accelerates into the fall. Analyze where the line of symmetry is broken. You should literally be able to draw a line and see where there is too much of you on the falling side of the pose. That is what needs to be fixed.
For example, if you watch my handstand videos, you know the primary structural alignment is hips over shoulders over wrists. You should be able to more or less draw that physical line straight up the pose. And once the hips and/or shoulders fall out of alignment, you will fall out of the pose. Simple as that.
If the pose you are working on is a flexibility challenge, you should be able to look at the pose and see exactly which body part needs to move where and then determine how to get there. For example, a scorpion may seem like it depends completely on just getting a deep enough backbend, but if you watch yourself carefully, you may notice that the secret lies in being able to bend your knees deeper to bring your feet closer to your head.
Fair warning: sometimes you simply do not have the flexibility or mobility to complete a pose (I have never–as in, ever–touched my feet to my head in scorpion!), but at least you will be informed about what needs to work and be stretched to get closer to your goal.