We include an outline that shares the essence of a pose in every Yoga asana tutorial we post. This is a simple way to understand the effects of the pose on your body and mind. Know this and you’ll be more equipped to choose one pose over another and avoid pushing the pose into a place of imbalance.
Take a pose such as upavistha konasana, wide-angle seated fold. Many people think of this pose as a “hip opener” or a way to stretch the hamstrings. And while the pose increases flexibility in the hips and hamstrings, this is not the only reason for doing it. As a forward fold, a central part of the essence of upavistha konasana is to calm the nervous system. Understanding this guides you to practice upavistha konasana in a way in a way that creates peace, not more tension. That means abandoning anything that feels like forcing -- whether that is in throwing your legs open too far or overstretching your hamstrings and back in order to bring your forehead to the ground. Instead, the pose becomes about gently turning your pelvis and extending your belly forward, allowing your breath to guide you and stopping two steps away from your edge.
Before you begin a pose, go within and connect to its essence. What is it meant to do for your body and mind? Then, allow your breath to guide you to feel what you need to do. Work from here and you will avoid injury, always be challenged and progress faster.