When we practice yoga poses, we hope to attain a state of balance and poise. This goal is elusive for many reasons: level of skill in a pose, degree of focus, temperament that day. In addition, we seek a state that is not static but dynamic, one that includes varying degrees of (im)balance – wobbly, temporary, stable, rooted. In a simple pose like Tadasana (Mountain pose) we can feel balanced and poised until a movement or sound distracts us, and we tilt, or, having gone slightly unconscious, we lose awareness of the myriad of movements that result in the well-balanced pose: firmly grounded feet, well-aligned spine, full spinal extension.
Even a simple standing pose like this requires so much focus that an urge can rise in us to move onto something more energetic. If we stay, we cultivate the experience of feeling well balanced and poised, even if only for a moment. If we move, we lose the possibility of feeling more rooted.
If we pay close attention, the manner in which we take yoga poses can reveal how we approach more than the poses, but also the way we approach life. We might discover we are forceful or graceful, disciplined or sporadic, focused or distracted. Each observation provides guidance and hones our inner teacher: the one who knows us best and can direct us toward an optimum practice.
As yogis, we are asked to observe our approach to asana practice without harm (ahimsa) or judgment, and pursue equanimity through balance and poise. These are worthy, and challenging, disciplines that require ongoing alertness in our practice.
Why is this important?
The rewards are great. The purpose of yoga is union, the integration of the body and the mind, the internal and external. From the first steps of working toward this goal, we find more mental concordance and physical health. Suffering diminishes. As the body-mind alignment grows stronger, our vital forces strengthen and this brings energy and ease.