Sthira Sukham Asanam
A Posture or Pose should be steady and comfortable (patanjali yoga sutra).
The Yoga Pose should be steady and comfortable and Yogis, aspire for these two qualities in all poses.
How do we evolve to a stage where any pose we practice becomes steady and comfortable?
Yoga is not about bending and flexibility only. Too much attachment to these physical targets result in yoga related injuries world over. The general question being discussed amongst yogis when they meet and talk about yoga is, can you do this and that pose? What is the definition of ‘can do’ a pose? Is our yoga asana practice merely about getting to the final position of any given pose? Is it only about flexibility and strength? If the answer was yes then all gymnasts and circus artists would automatically be called great yogis.
If our target is purely physical then soon some day we are going to get stuck. Yoga by definition is a spiritual practice. Spirituality is about discovery, evolution and constant improvement of self. Ability to ‘do a pose’ is different than enjoying and exploring our body, breath and mind in relation to the pose. Let us start enjoying every pose by playing with the pose. This will enable us to learn more about ourselves.
What do I mean when I say “play with the pose”.
It means being more aware of ‘self’ by developing awareness of body sensations, breath and mind during our Asana practice. Try out different things while in the pose. Take it to the limits and beyond to it then come back again in your comfort zone. Think about the yoga pose, about how you can get more comfortable in the pose or thinking about how you can make it more challenging for yourself if you find yourself holding the pose too easily. When we are playing with the pose our awareness is fully introverted. We are able to notice different sensations that body throws up.
Where do you feel the stretch? where you feel relaxed? and which position is convenient for you?
It’s a process of increasing self awareness and learning the pose in relation to our body. Now we are not trying to copy a perfect pose done by someone on a picture or a video, we are developing our own understanding of the pose.
A good example of this is when we practice Downward facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvan Asana).
Start by walking the dog. Bend one knee and take full stretch on the straight leg and then bend the other knee thereby exploring the full range of flexibility. We can shift more weight on the opposite hand when knee is bending so that slowly shoulders open up and move towards the floor. Play with position of tail bone to see if you can find space to move the pelvis. Push thighs back to straighten legs or bend knees to create space for tail bone to lift. There are many other ways that you can play with during your practice. While you are doing this your awareness is fully into the pose which is a desired state while in any yoga pose. You are not merely following instructions but you are thinking, feeling and learning the pose. You are Making It Your own. You are developing a better understanding of your own body.
Another example that I can readily give is when you practice Bhujang Asana or Cobra Pose.
There is immense scope to explore and experiment in Cobra Pose. How much weight we bear on our arms , where we place our hands, how much we contract our lower back muscles, legs are wide apart or together, legs muscles are kept tight or loose, hips are contracted or kept relaxed, to what height I want to go in my cobra? We can play with position of shoulders, elbows and neck. How about playing around with all these and finding out what suits us rather than someone else telling us which is the perfect pose position for us. By using different combinations we can learn how it feels and which combination is best for us. We also learn what’s not comfortable for us.
In my opinion there is no perfect pose which applies to everyone. We are all different and different things suit our different bodies. The best of teachers find it hard to conduct a class which suits every students needs. Learn to be your own teacher. I would rather have my students discover themselves what’s best for them rather than me telling them what a perfect pose looks like. As a teacher I rather facilitate their journey towards self discovery safely, rather than impose my acquired ideas on them. In a yoga class you have a teacher who is giving you commands and instructions which should be followed. There is another teacher always present with you in every class and that is your internal teacher` your body’. I always tell students in my classes to listen to your body first. You know your body best and you can know your body better if you start thinking and playing with the poses and stop worrying too much about how deep you can reach in your pose. Poses will eventually get better if we enjoy and be regular in our practice.
While we notice physical sensations while practicing, every pose is also working on one or more energy centers. Once we have developed our practice to a comfortable physical level, awareness of chakras should also make a part of our awareness. Use of Bandhas and mudras, wherever applicable adds another dimension to our practice. Each body is unique and everyone has to understand the poses they are practicing in relation to their body and breath.
I can easily relate what Lord krishana says in Bhagwat Geeta “ Your focus should be on action and not on the fruits of actions because fruits will always be in accordance with your actions”. There is no point in worrying about results and targets if we are enjoying our practice.
Sanjeev Dutta is a 48 years old Yogi & Yoga Teacher who practicing yoga for last 12 years. He learnt yoga from various yoga teachers of different styles from various countries. Trained as a teacher in Rishikesh and learnt finer points of yoga in himalayan city of Rishikesh which is a major yoga center in India.
Checkout him practicing Yoga