One of my favorite Yoga classes from Carling Harps is a very gently morning Yoga flow with mainly two poses: warrior two and bridge pose. She leads through the sequence and suddenly instructs a slight variation with the words “same same, but different” and lets us place our feet differently. In Warrior II we have to lift our toes, once we are stabilized in the pose and next time the heels. Warrior II is not an overly challenging pose, but placing the feet differently gives you a very different feeling.
A couple of minutes later, we land in bridge pose, but instead of placing the feet hip distance apart, she instructs us to place them a little wider and lift the heels off the mat. Next time, rested in the widened stands, we lift the toes off and only rest on our heels. These slight deviations help you to become more conscious in what you are doing: where you place your feet and which muscles you engage. In changing the pose we engage the muscles differently and give the body “new ideas”.
“If we always do the same movement, we always feel the same.”
Asanas are in fact a good way to move our bodies, maybe become stronger and more flexible, but more important is what happens in our mind. Yoga is not only about muscles groups or deep bends; the aim is to connect body and mind. Training our awareness and becoming more conscious. How does it feel to place the feet like that? What happens in the body, when I lift of my hips AND my heels? Does it feel different the next time, when I lift the toes instead.
Ever so often we go through our routines, without being really there. We listen to the instructions of the Yoga teacher, but our minds swirls around the tasks for the day or a recent dispute we had with our partner. But if we are always distracted, we never focus our intention on one single thing. Staying focused also helps us to be more concentrated in other parts of our lives.
Why is it so important to vary our routines?
Challenge yourself: If we are always training the same thing, our body gets used it. It works very efficiently, so after a couple of weeks the muscles already “know what to do” and won´t put any further effort into it. As a result, we won´t build new muscles or deepen our flexibility or lose weight (whatever the goal is). We will get bored and won´t be able to enjoy the benefits of our session.
Train your brain: Changing your routines is not only important for your body, but also for your brain. Doing things differently doesn´t only help you with keeping your brain intact and preventing memory loss, but also keep your neurons active and set new impulses. New movements stimulate the blood circulation in the brain, which results in a higher concentration of neuronal messengers and the building of new connections.
Expand: Only, if we do things differently or adjust our routines, we will be able to expand further. When we always take the same way to work, we know it by heart, our brain is less attentive to the traffic and the surrounding as it´s “running on autopilot”. Taking a different route will alert our mind and fire the neuros in our brain. We initiate new connections and train the five senses.
Concentration on physical alignments does not only challenge our body, but also help our mind to expand our consciousness. Throughout our daily routines we deal with all kinds of distractions, the less we are focused the harder it is to concentrate on one task. The same applies to our working lives: new stimulations help us being more productive and engaged with the work topics. The moment our brain receives new information our brain is alert and focusses to find the best solution.
“How do we know what´s different, if we never do the same? How do we know what we´re capable of if we never push outside the routines?”
I think this is a very good summary of why it´s so important to find the balance: we need new impulses to come out of our routines and do something different, but we also need to follow the routines for a certain time to see results and give our body and mind the chance to learn from it. After all, same same but different, is not a question of doing things differently every day, but to add slight variations here and there in order to expand further.
Jessie Potter says: "If You Always Do What You've Always Done, You Always Get What You've Always Gotten. "