When we practice yoga we naturally wonder if we are doing it right. Is my alignment correct? Have I moved far enough into the pose? While these questions are important, the full expression of any Yoga pose is so much more than its physical constituents.
Every yoga pose is an introspective journey that can lead to a place deep within you where you feel that “Just for this moment in time, everything is right, absolutely nothing needs to change.” Your body has achieved perfect balance between effort and relaxation. Your mind is still and grounded in the present moment, intensely aware of everything you are experiencing at every instant of time. You have found your inner essence, and you are completely content, completely at peace. In yogic terms you have united mind, body, and spirit.
At the beginning of our yoga experience, this ultimate expression may seem unachievable, especially when it seems we have to do our utmost, just to attain a reasonable approximation of the correct physical expression of some poses. Don’t be discouraged. If you feel effortless effort and equanimity in Child’s Pose, you can find it in Down Dog. If you can find stillness and peace in Savasana, it is available to you in Tree Pose. By adopting a holistic approach to your yoga, and with a little time and practice, every yoga pose can become an expression of unity, a moment of mindfulness.
So, how do we make it happen? Next time you step on the mat try exploring your way into the pose; then, once you get there, take the time to experience it fully, suspending expectation of any specific outcome, and accepting the results of your efforts as your true and personal expression of the pose at this moment in time. Lets look a little more closely at this idea.
Explore. Move mindfully into the pose, allowing sensation to be your guide and curiosity to be your companion. Although alignment is important, sensation is more so. When you have reached the point where sensation is challenging, but not painful, it is time to stop. Respect the inner wisdom of your body and never push yourself to a place where sensation becomes pain. Find your boundaries, maybe push them gently outwards, but never push your way through them. Remember, yoga is not about what we look like on the outside, it is what we feel within.
Experience. Notice the nature of the physical sensation you have produced. It could be the sensation of movement, of stretching, or of muscles working. Perhaps it’s the sensation of rest. Allow it to speak to you. Listen to it. Stay interested. Experiment – carefully adjust your position and notice any changes in sensation. Find a place that feels good, where you can feel the balance between effort and relaxation. Stop “doing” the pose. Instead, let it happen to you. Now connect with breath and use it to keep you here, one breath, one moment at a time. Notice that when you are watching breath, physical sensation becomes less relevant, more manageable. With each exhalation allow yourself to release deeper into the pose. By watching sensation and breath become aware of, then grounded, in the present moment. Consider the present moment to be exactly one breath long. Notice the stillness of your mind, the absence of thought. Treat any thoughts or emotions that arise as sensations of the mind. Manage them by shifting awareness back to breath, allowing them to drift away, untouched, unopened, unable to distract you from the clarity of the present moment. Become the silent witness, the one who watches the experience objectively and and sees it for what it really is.
Accept Not Expect. Live your experience without any preconceived ideals about how you should look, or how you should feel. Cultivate an attitude of acceptance. Perceive without judgement, and accept with compassion. Be who you are now, not who you think you should be.
For now at least, this is your Full Expression of the pose. Cherish it. It is exactly where you need to be at this moment in time.
Written by Brendon Abram
2013, Trenton Ontario