We all have different needs at different times. They may be short term or long term needs, related to a hard day at work, an injury, illness or a phase of life. Fortunately, yoga is an adaptable approach to improve both mental and physical health. It can address many of our needs, and there are numerous ways to modify yoga so that it provides what we need, when we need it.

The Same Pose, Different Ways

There are, of course, hundreds of yoga poses, each with its own effects and benefits. In addition, each pose can be practiced different ways. The actions of a pose that are emphasized, the direction of mental focus and the props, if any, that you use are all ways to influence the benefit you receive from that particular pose at that time.

As an example, think of three different ways to practice tadasana, mountain pose. Standing in tadasana, choose to focus on the actions of the legs, providing support and stability, along with torso actions to lift and open the chest. Feel the movement of your effort rise from the floor up through your chest. In this way, tadasana becomes an energising, invigorating pose, preparing the body for the next asana.

Tadasana can also be used to quiet and center the mind. Stand in mountain pose, but focus on balance between the left and right sides. Which foot bears more weight? Does the body shift from side to side as you bring more attention to the subtleties of the pose? Notice how this tadasana feels different from the first one.

For your last tadasana, stand with your back against a wall. Notice where the body makes contact with the wall. Allow the wall to support the body even as you make adjustments to expand your chest and grow taller. This is likely to be a more stable pose that allows you to explore how particular actions can enhance mountain pose.

Put it All Together

Comparing how you felt during and after each version of tadasana, think about how you might practice the pose based on different needs or, for example, at different times of day. Then pick another pose and see if you can practice it two or three different ways. To explore physical effects, you could try supta padangusthasana, reclining big toe pose, once to stretch the hamstring muscles and a second time to release the back. Can you modify the actions to achieve these results?

Once you have worked with individual poses, begin to approach an entire sequence with a particular need or benefit in mind. While most sequences have a particular aim or theme, it may be possible to add to or shift the focus of a sequence without changing which poses are included.

Yoga is vast field of study. With continued exploration and observation, we begin to learn how small adjustments in yoga practice can make a big difference in our lives.