Is Your Yoga Practice Making You Out of Balance?
BKS Iyengar said, “In every pose there should be repose.” Relaxation, I’ll admit, is something that doesn’t come easily to me. It’s so easy to “do” and so challenging to simply “be.” With today’s yoga trend of hot, fast, flow yoga, it can be really easy to get sucked into “doing” without pausing long enough to breath and surrender our attempts to control the moment.
If we constantly push and never find a way to be at ease, we’re actually building a bad habit of imbalance. The true practice of yoga asks us to find a sense of “being” in complement to our active “doing.” It’s a self-acceptance that I still struggle with, even after 19 years of practice.
With relaxation, we learn to release unnecessary tension, especially in our muscles. It creates serenity in the mind. To only relax, however, is not in balance either.
A river without banks is just a puddle, after all. We need to build strength and right effort to contain our energy and to hold our boundaries. When we channel it we align with who we truly are (being) and where we want to be (doing). It builds the strength and courage to walk our talk.
So how do we find the balance?
Asana, of course.
If we try to hard to DO yoga postures, it blocks our ability to find relaxation and be present. Yet if we were to simply BE, without any structure, engagement or effort, we would get hurt, or just be lying around on the floor all day.
To practice finding balance, let’s take a look at Warrior 2. We’ll start with just the legs as a preparatory step.
- Once you get a nice wide stance, turn your right foot all the way out, perpendicular to your back foot.
- Bend your right leg deeply, to about ninety degrees.
- Squeeze your heels towards each other until you feel muscular energy in your legs.
- Lift your inner left thigh up to the bone and tone the hamstrings on the back of your right leg.
- Did doing that cause you to hold your breath? If so, you’re “doing” too much, trying too hard or are unused to spreading your awareness in this way.
- Learn to keep the engagement of your legs and simultaneously allow your breath to be fluid and open.
The full pose, Virabhadrasana 2, is a great one to teach us how to balance effort and surrender. As is our daily life, it’s challenging, our gaze is drawn up and out, we get fatigued, so we practice relaxing consciously and without giving up the strength to hold ourselves up.
- Come into the preparatory version of the pose, as above.
- Raise your arms over your legs, to about shoulder height.
- Turn your head and gaze at your right middle finger.
- Squeeze your legs in, as before, and find freedom in your breath.
- Keep your legs toned but relax your right hip crease and thigh bone down; this is the practice of surrender.
- At the same time, actively lift your upper, inner left thigh up; this is the effort side of your practice.
- Now, hold all that and find any amount of repose, or restfulness in your posture.
Some other ways to trigger and ensure relaxation are:
- Keep your tongue soft and plump.
- Relax your eyes and forehead.
- Soften the skin on the back of your neck.
- Begin every pose by exhaling until you are empty, clear and at peace.