“Do over!” children shout when they flub it. In the Bikram studio, we do most postures twice. The reasons are many but all come down to the desire of the child to get it right–or righter, anyway.
Immediately repeating a posture allows you to go deeper. If you have stretched a muscle once, it stretches more the second time. Likewise, in balancing stick, I always land in parallel faster the second time, having tilted once already.
Repeating poses also helps heal you and attend to your limits. One teacher describes the first set as “diagnostic”, determining how far to push the second time, when the purpose is progress. I often, particularly on an injury, move very slowly into a pose the first time, so I can gauge how far I can go in the second.
And I use the repetition for physical therapy. When I recovered from a broken bone in my foot, I could not do the second awkward chair: I could not bear the weight of being high on my toes with bent knees. So on the first set, I would go up textbook high, to reclaim flexibility. On the second, rising half as high, I bent my knees to a respectable depth, so as not to lose thigh strength. Though this is not the classic Bikram way, I split up the pose and managed to keep different parts of it alive until I could put it and myself back together.
Finally, doing it twice also allows you to be both master and learner. At a recent point in my practice of standing-head-to-knee , I started trying to bring my head down. I fell constantly, and never got to really savor holding my leg out in balanced stillness. So now, on the first set, I remain steady and indulge in that satisfaction. in the second set, I experiment with lowering my head, strive for progress, and almost inevitably fall.
There is really nothing repetitive in repetition. You never step in the same river twice, and my yoga practice is never dull. And furthermore, I would love in life too to request, “Do over!”