How do you relax in a pose that is causing you discomfort, right? Relaxing in a pose is all about getting comfortable with your discomfort. It’s a mind over matter stance. Pain as we all know, is a given. Suffering, however, is a choice. I say this because asana is not merely about getting the body into poses. Those poses are a lot more than a pantomime of Sanskrit words.
The practice of asana has made my body flexible, no doubt, but it has contributed to my life in a much more deep and important way – it has made my mind flexible. The term “open minded” then is worthy of contemplation. They say that asana opens the body, and I agree. Yet, what does asana do to the mind – it opens it up too. This happens because asana, in order for it to be comfortable demands your mindful attention to the body. Asana has taught me above all to go with the flow, to go where the energy flows.
Consider this mat scenario: A part of the body trembles when uncomfortable in a pose. Which one of us has not experienced this while practicing yoga asana? This is the body asking us to pay attention to it – a communication of sorts stating an inherent need for integration and embodiment. The same is true of balancing in a pose. Does the body sway a little, shake a little, get out of balance and topple sometimes? What then is balance? It is certainly not the body’s ability to stay still. It is the mind’s ability to stay still with a swaying body. Balance then is not the absence of movement. It is presence in movement. And that is why I specially love balancing asana. They impact the body and mind through the neurological process involved in the balancing act. My yoga teacher used to remind us of the toning effect of balancing poses on the nerves, the spine, and so the mind.
Pain, yoga and pain in yoga
Pain is a signal from the body that something is out of sync, that prana has been vitiated and that vital energies have been disturbed. Sometimes, asana helps relieve pain, sometimes not. Pranayama on the other hand, has a remarkable impact on pain and so does yogic breathing – rightly dubbed “yogic tranquilizer”. However, pain during yoga is another ball game altogether. Never do an asana to the point of pain. This was cardinal rule number one taught to me by my teacher. Always feel relaxed in a pose. Cardinal rule number two. Always accept where the body is, in other words, be where you are. Cardinal rule three. No two people can do the same asana in an identical way. Similarly the same asana will affect different people differently. Same with pranayama. Your body gets out of a practice what it needs at that moment. So better be with it and go where it goes. Love it. Leave it. And accept that the best place to be in a pose is where you actually are.
Yoga can be taken anywhere. Your practice is done at the very spot in which you find yourself at any given moment. Even on the sidewalk.
Bring your mind to your body and your practice begins right then.