This weekend was the monthly intensives. Focus of the month is arm balances. I also taught a workshop after the Saturday intensive which was part of the Anatomy of Yoga Series. In these workshops I talk about the anatomy of the body, energetic anatomy and also methods and reasons for teaching the pose or focus. What came out of the discussion was something even more intriguing. The question of why do these crazy yoga postures at all?
Why do asana?
This is an interesting question. Now, of course asana practice is good for the body because it makes it stronger and more flexible. A healthy body leads to a healthier mind right? But what about postures like arm balances that seem a little extreme or contortionist to some? Why not stick with postures that are straightforward and predictable?
The great shake-up
I believe, there is something about challenging your body and mind that makes for better awareness. You really need to pay attention when you are approaching bakasana (crane) or you will fall on your face. I have noticed that I am most aware and alert when I am doing something new or challenging. You know that feeling when you have been driving down the same road you drive everyday and you suddenly realize you don’t remember the past 10 minutes? Have you ever had that happen? What about when you are driving or walking or biking to a place you have never been before? Don’t you feel like you are paying better attention? The same goes for arm balances and challenging postures.
A little goes a long way
I am not suggesting a constant struggle. In fact, I think if you are constantly in uncharted waters so to speak, you can get completely over stimulated. The key is a balance between the predictable and the unpredictable, the challenging (stira) and the comfortable (sukha), the known and the unknown. Hopefully underlying it all is a sense of adventure and fun. These concepts don’t need apply only to yoga practice. In fact, I think you can apply them to all kinds of experiences.
“Do not fight your body. Do not carry the world on your shoulders like Atlas. Drop that heavy load of unnecessary baggage and you will feel better.
Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose. Do not look at your body like a stranger, but adopt a friendly approach toward it. Watch it, listen to it, observe its needs, its requests, and even have fun. Play with it as children do, sometimes it becomes very alert and swift. To be sensitive is to be alive.” Swami Karmananda Saraswati