Last week a student who I'd not met before, and who was new to yoga, turned up to one of my classes. He arrived a little early and as we got chatting he told me about his history of movement and exercise.
He was an ex rugby player and a keen cyclist and felt that he had a lot of stiffness in his hips and legs.
This may or may not have been true but as he was telling me this he was sat in a pose called Baddha Konasana (in which the soles of the feet are together with the heels drawn in towards the pelvis) - and his knees were almost resting on the floor.
So it definitely didn't look like there was a lot of stiffness in his hips from where I was sitting...at least not in that pose (it's interesting how our perception sometimes bears little resemblance to reality...maybe a post for another day!)
I've practised a lot of yoga and my knees do not reach the floor in Baddha Konasana - if I really activate the muscles around my hips then they get pretty close but without external force or leverage they definitely won't reach all the way (and I don't believe in using external leverage to 'deepen' a posture - again that's a post for another day).
And here's the thing - it really really doesn't matter. I wrote recently about gently probing the boundaries of our comfort zone and there's so much value in this.
But at the same time there's great freedom in approaching our exploration of postures without attachment to end goals or results...using our practice as a means to connect to our bodies and breath. As a means to cultivate presence rather than worrying about achieving a certain aesthetic.
How 'deeply' we can enter a posture is affected by many variables - our history of movement, exercise and injury and the bony structures and dimensions of our bodies. And whilst pushing and forcing may achieve short term results it's not sustainable in the longer term - there will be repercussions somewhere down the line.
What might be easy, natural even, for some people, will never be achievable by others. This is why the notion of an 'advanced practice' has nothing to do with how 'well' we execute postures.
A 'deeper' back bend or forward fold won't necessarily yield a deeper internal experience of the posture - and this after all is where the essence of the practice lies. In the nature of our experience over the form of the postures we take.
So when you move through your practice, rather than worrying about where you want to 'get to' in a posture see if you can simply drop your awareness deep into the body, really taking time to connect to the range of sensations that can be felt in each pose and noting how the movement of breath is affected by the position of the body and it's relationship to the earth.
See if you can simply practice being where you're at.