For a long time I thought modifications were like cheating. I am a very follow the rules type of personality and I want to do things right because #recoveringperfectionist and this is probably part of why I prefer baking to cooking. Comfort with modifying recipes and improvising with what you have is prized in good cooking. Following the rules in baking so that all the science of baking works out is more my speed. I have come to change my mind about boundaries though. If it weren’t for finding the freedom to modify, I think there are a lot of things I would never attempt at all. Now, instead of thinking of modifications as cheating, I think of them as boundaries. When I choose to modify I tell myself, “This is how I can do this activity within my skill level, within the amount of time I have, within what keeps me safe.” I was delighted when one of my favorite Peloton instructors said during a workout, “Modifications are boundaries and boundaries are sexy” I couldn’t agree more. Here are a few of my own sexy boundaries/modifications that I use often.
IN FITNESS: I don’t do jumping jacks. I just don’t. Why? Jumping jacks are meant to help your fitness, right? To work your cardio or warm you up for a higher intensity workout. They might do that for you. For me they make me re-evaluate if I can work out at all. Real talk: I’m not thinking bout mental fortitude or getting stronger when I do jumping jacks. I’m thinking about if I am going to hurt my knees (that kind of movement really seems to do a number on them), and as a mom of three I am thinking about what my babies did to my pelvic floor and how much effort I now need to put into not peeing myself while doing jumping jacks. (And I’m one of the “lucky” moms who CAN manage that with intention and proper form. But that’s not what I want to focus on during my workout!) I also don’t want to focus on negativity or things that are wrong with me when I move my body. I have to focus on that enough when I’m being targeted by advertisers as I move through day to day life. This is why I don’t respond to boot camp situations… so I don’t take those kind of classes. Back when I was a regular gym member, I got to the point where I would walk out of a class if a teacher cued a workout with anything along the lines of “this is what you have to do for a bikini body” Nope. hard pass. Diet culture does not belong in my fitness program. Boundary. Sexy. The end.
RUNNING: I resisted calling myself a runner for such a long time because I would often walk for sections of my longer distance runs. I didn’t realize that throwing in walking intervals as part of your runs is an incredibly common modification and that there is a whole method advocated by Jeff Galloway around it! Even some professional athletes walk during their runs! So if you have given up on running in the past because someone told you you had to run the whole time for it to count- use that walking modifications and get your sexy self back out there! I also modify my training plan if I have family or personal obligations that come up but I don’t want to completely give up on training for that night. Modifications fit into my “progress not perfection” way of approaching life.
YOGA: Just like I don’t do jumping jacks, I am at a point in my life where I don’t even attempt to do plow pose (halasana). This is an asana that is not a good fit for my body. All the original yogis were MEN which means that some of the poses do not keep in mind some larger curves that women like me have. Can I do plow pose? Yes. Will I? No. Because a key component of yoga is breath and body connection and I’m not interested in getting into a pose where I can’t breathe because my chest is blocking my airway.
I also feel zero shame about using props in yoga classes or modifying poses to my current abilities. Why? Because I don’t want to get hurt, I want to be able to continue my practice the next day. I have talked about this more back in this post from last year. Aside from injury, if you are skipping a prop to help you learn an asana then you may be learning it in improper alignment and you will have to have your body unlearn that incorrect alignment before you can progress. More people need to be encouraged to use props in yoga classes and to embrace these modifications. Props are tools to make your practice stronger. They are not a sign of weakness or a lesser practice. I am lucky to have had some really great yoga teachers who encourage props and do not use condescending language around them. I you want to check out two of them, here are links to the instagrams of Manjari Gopika and Taylor Wray. I bet if I had embraced props and additional modifications sooner I would have had an easier time progressing in handstand.
Musicians make modifications too! If an artist covers a song they may change the key to fit their
vocal range. Those who play stringed instruments might use capos so they can use the same fingering of chords but they are then able to get higher notes. In helping my daughter learn some basic guitar, while my kids are learning their instruments I am finding lots of arrangements that make songs simpler for them to play at their learning level. I’ve been in shows where we didn’t have al the musicians we needed to cover specific instruments and so modifications are made to cover the missing parts. I am trying to give myself the same permission to make modifications and learn slowly as I build up my skills in music as I do when building up muscle of flexibility in my fitness endeavor. I think of how my years in the theatre has taught me how to creatively embrace modifications so the show can go on. And creativity, like boundaries- is super sexy.
SO MODIFY! Give yourself the permission and celebrate it. Are there any modifications you have embraced in your life or that you find particularly helpful? Or that you are struggling to make because you are judging yourself or aren’t exactly sure of the best way to modify? If so, please share!