The discussion continues to simmer on the yoga community back-burner: is there a "right way" to do a pose? Is there, for example, an "ideal" form of Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)? How far apart should the feet be placed? Is the stance heel to heel or heel to arch? Should the bottom hand float? Rest on the shin? Reach for the big toe? Must the front leg be straight, bent or locked?
Different lineages set out different guidelines. Trikonasana, for example, in the Bikram tradition has the front leg bent and the bottom arm floating in the heat of a humid room. In Ashtanga, the stance is shorter, big toe grasped for five ujjayi breaths. In Iyengar, palm flat on the floor or a block (or two) for a long hold to yield maximum health benefits. In Anusara, widen the feet, spiral the thighs, and feed off the lower fingertips to fill with joyful expansiveness.
So where does that put you, the student, as you build your pose? --Squarely in the driver's seat, I believe, because only you can decide on the tradition you follow, on the effort you make, the shape you take, and whether or not a specific form is optimal for you on any given day. Of most consequence, perhaps, is not what a single tradition advises, but that you yourself are able to find a balanced, sustainable form, wherein the breath is full and where effort and stability gracefully meet ease and dynamism. By all means, respect the lineage you have chosen, but leave room for your own healthy self-perception inside it.
As my body and my ego mature - and not at the same rate, I might add! - I am sometimes faced with the dilemma of whether or not to "go for" a pose (or an expression of a pose) that I enjoy and can often do with easy effort. If I've been struggling with hip pain, should I twist myself into Marichyasana C just because I have before? If my wrist is cranky, are my beloved handstands really a good idea? And if I'm feeling lazy but pain free, should I indulge my comfort-driven habits just because I'm not as spry as I used to be? Reading this, the answer seems obvious: the path through practice should not be paved with ego or attachment. It should be charted anew, each and every time I come to my mat. I can only do that, however, if I am fully awake to my experiences on the mat (which, happily and not coincidentally, is a reflection of awakening to life off the mat).
Listen to your inner guru. Pay close attention to the experience of living fully inside of your body, to the sensation of the physical container and the subtle energy that flows within and around you. Sharp, shooting pains are never a good sign, and mild discomfort isn't necessarily a negative one. Be open and curious with each breath and pose, and make timely decisions based on your experience in the present moment. Absorb what you can from your teachers; they may provide inspiration and seasoned knowledge. They don't, however, live in your body. You are ultimately accountable for finding and creating your best pose on your unique path.