Asana - Steadiness & Ease
Yoga is all the rage. And still, so few actually ever experience asana. In the west we think of yoga as this-asana, that-asana: poses with fancy Sanscrit names. We think if we pretzel ourselves into looking at least somewhat like the photos, we are doing yoga asana. Not!!Asana (Yoga Sutra 2:46-7) has two primary qualities: steadiness/stability and ease. And guess what: if you are holding or puffing your breath, or gripping any muscles, or bracing, you are not in asana. You are just posing, and even opening yourself to injury. You want to be challenged? Build strength and flexibility? Great – but do it based on stability and ease, not tension and rigidity.
Stability means coordination and control over a range of motion. This brings us to effortless effort.
There is no tension or strain in stability. Breath is diaphragmatic. Muscles and other tissues are engaging, but functionally: “on” when they are supposed to be (without gripping) and “off” when they are supposed to be. Movements are within each structure’s optimal range of motion for your body at this moment in time. Here we discover effortless effort.
If we start with stability and ease, we can build strength, mobility, and flexibility successfully, even while maintaining asana (ease and stability). This is resilience and equanimity, a result of asana. Each pose, even challenging ones, become their own meditation, filled with ease.
When we learn the art of asana on the mat, we can learn to practice asana in every day life.
Try this: have fun and let me know what you discover!
Come into your normal standing position, with feet relatively close together. Lift one foot off the floor. Pause. Release.Notice what happened to your breath – did it hitch up? Did your toes of the standing leg try to grab onto the floor? Did your belly tighten? Did your arms wave to the side, or your hands or shoulders tighten up? How about your jaw? Did you lean to one side – or did you simply effortlessly lift one foot?
Try this again: consciously release your breath and any tension first, and keep the above questions in mind. Move mindfully and without engaging any of the above bits of tension. What happens then? Did you find asana?
And in life: the next time a challenge or “surprise” comes along, pause and notice your breath, your shoulders, back, jaw, eyes (to name just a few places people hold tension). See if you can pause a moment more, exhale, soften, and then choose your response!