This morning I woke and went to a resort Yoga class at the Shangri-la Hotel in Borneo. I entered a few minutes late and the class had already started, but the teacher was gracious enough to allow me inside. There were only 6 of us (standard for a resort class!). The teacher asked me, “have you done Yoga before?” There I am standing with an OM Yoga tank top and over 20 years studying Yoga under my belt (and yet I still) answered in an ego voice, “too many years to speak out loud.” Ugh. Really Shoshana?!
This of course prompted the Instructor to go further into questioning: who, when, how…But then the cycle of she vs. me, went spiraling out of control. She started to take the class in a way that was harmful to the students, advanced poses that were put in the strangest order…So I began to wonder. Balance, is it not a Balancing Act. And this is when I wished that I had Stacey not only teaching this class, but happy that she was our Guest Blogger of today’s Movement. Stacey Browne and I met back in 2001 in Mexico both studying to be Yoga Instructors, which was the beginning of a great friendship. So Stacey, take it away!
We are always trying to find our balance. From biology, the word homeostasis (from the Greek meaning “standing still”) tells us that living organisms maintain a state of equilibrium through regulating various systems. Most are automatic, like our consistent internal body temperature, which allows us to live in different environments. When our body/mind loses its balance the results can be discomfort, stress and illness. One way of working with balance is through yoga, especially the series of standing balancing poses.
Sometimes when I introduce a balancing series to the yoga class the energy begins to shift. A subtle tension arises; some students move to the wall with a type of grim determination forming on their faces. Others get excited for the poses they are “good” at. Standing balancing poses can sometimes feel like a test, one that everybody can instantly know whether they passed or failed. In fact, balancing poses give us a chance to learn more about our inner state of equilibrium.
Standing balances can be challenging physically, but even more so mentally. It is the perfect time for the critical mind to emerge and judge the quality of the posture, the effort, to physically fall out of the pose and feel frustrated or inadequate. Many times, in classes ranging from very beginners to the most advanced practitioners, we have to practice falling out of poses without that sense of “oh, I’m just not good at this”. We practice falling out, coming back, falling out, and coming back until it becomes like a song for the body/mind, instead of something we have to conquer.
Practice simply. Stand up. Breathe. Put your attention in your left foot. Place some weight into that foot, lifting the right foot. Balance. Breathe. If you fall out, come back without mental commentary. Switch to the right foot. Work with some variations: raise the foot with a bent knee in front of the body, thigh parallel to the floor. If that is comfortable, you can straighten the knee, bringing the entire leg parallel to the floor. Or, bend the knee behind you, shin parallel to the floor. Work with the body, work with the mind. Still the mind. Notice the breath. Notice the little movements, adjustments that your body does automatically. It is helping you, sometimes without you even noticing.
Practice simply, but do practice. The body/mind responds to practice. You will feel the graceful strength that the balancing asanas can reveal to you.
Stacey Browne has been teaching yoga since 2001. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saaha Nau Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejasvi Naavadheetam Astu
Maa VidvishaavahaiOm Shanthi Shanthi Shanthi
Lokaah Samastaah Sukhino Bhavantu