"Warrior II," the teacher says, and you automatically bend your front knee and reach the crown of your head up towards the ceiling as your back leg moves towards straight. The teacher continues to give cues on where you can check in with your body, but you already know them and sit your hips down to right where they feel comfortable. After all, who knows your body better than you do? Certainly not your yoga teacher who you have practiced with five times who is suggesting a 90 degree angle in your front knee. Lastly, you bring your gaze over your front middle finger and then maybe start to zone out--detaching from your body and letting your mind float away to other important things like your lunch plans.
We all go on autopilot, so don't feel bad if you do this! We go on autopilot throughout the day at different times and just kind of do our work or whatever and just kind of cruise. When we do this in yoga, we can sometimes think, "oh, well, it's a good thing. I am in the zone. I am focusing on my breath..." well, you're right and you're wrong. Focusing on your breath is great and getting into the zone is also great, but what zone are you getting into? Depending on where your mind has gone when you're in the zone, you could be hanging out in the past. Just kind of performing things today like you did yesterday and the day before that letting your body sink into to it's muscle memory while your mind dives into your endless pool of thoughts. The late BKS Iyengar wrote in his book Light on LIfe, "Do not allow past experiences to be imprinted on your mind. Perform asanas each time with a fresh mind and with a fresh approach. If you are repeating what you did before, you are living in the memory, so you are living in the past." This little excerpt really stuck with me! How can we make progress if we only do what we know that we are good at because we did it well yesterday?
We have all done so many warrior twos! We do them in almost every vinyasa class and in most other yoga classes, too! In fact, there are many familiar poses that we do many times in our practice. Whether it is our yoga practice or life practice. How can we find something new to breath through and focus on? We let our bodies tell us where we need to go and gently guide it there with encouragement from our minds...maybe through our breath, and bam! That's yoga--creating a union and partnership and fluidity between the body, mind, and breath. Ask yourself, "Where and how can I improve? This is where the fire of practice (tapas) ignites the lamp of intelligence, and self-knowledge (svadhyaya) dawns" (another gem from Iyengar).
Next time you are doing anything (yoga, running, writing a report, anything) see if you can find something new about it--a new sensation, a new depth, a new perspective. See if it helps you come back to the present and get better at whatever it is that you are doing. Next time you are in Warrior II, see if you can get that 90 degree angle in your front knee (without hurting yourself) or maybe you find a deeper external rotation in your back leg. Whatever it is, see if you can "ignite that light of intelligence." Go inward and allow yourself to learn about yourself (one of the hardest tasks there is). Once you have learned all you can for that day or session, find a little contentment and send yourself some gratitude for all of your hard work!