We don’t know why a particular class or practice stays with us. I think of it as being part of the big mystery. One, in particular, that stays with me is a class that my teacher taught us many years ago all about balance and curiosity. I am not a big fan of balancing poses and in particular I am not crazy about Vrksasana (Tree Pose). Let’s just say I have some physical limitations that make the pose a little more difficult for me than for what seems like many other people.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I also had some mental limitations I was unaware of as well. Our teacher had us remember at the beginning of class as were seated in Sukasana (Easy Pose) a time when we were very relaxed. I had a bit of a challenge conjuring up one, but eventually by mushing together a memory and a longing I was able to come up with a solid visualization of being grounded and relaxed.
We went through a number of warm up poses for our hips and legs and shoulders and then she had us move into Vrksasana. By then I had completely forgotten the visualization exercise at the beginning and wobbled and fretted and tried to stay upright while running an interior monologue about misguided cheerful people talking about having fun, staying curious, knowing that falling out was all a part of the pose and so on and so forth (all things I am embarrassed to say I sometimes tell my students now) while hating every moment attempted in the pose.
Then the teacher stopped us, had us check in with ourselves, connect with the movement of our breath and then recall the relaxed point in time we had imagined earlier. And then we tried the pose again.
We all stuck the pose. Wobbled less, smiled more, held longer and generally had a much better time. The energy shift in the studio seemed palpable to me.
Not only did I stick the pose. I still remember all these years later the visualization that helped with it and the lesson that something as subtle as changing what one is thinking about can make a huge difference in the perception of difficulty while moving into a pose and being fully present in it.
Hey, don’t take my word for it…try it for yourself.
Yes, even in Vrksasana.
Sthira Sukham Asanam (Sutra 2.46) “…While practicing the āsanas, one has to explore and investigate the veiled, concealed or hidden weaknesses of the body, mind and intelligence. This requires action and reflection along with further study so that disparities are constructively removed to experience parity in body, mind, intelligence and consciousness…” B.K.S Iyengar from Core of the Yoga Sutras.
But sticking the pose just feels good too.
Elizabeth Domike teaches classes adapted for a broad range of body types in Portland Oregon. She has 200-hour certificate, as well as a certificate in teaching seniors and extensive experience teaching yoga to caregivers. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this sample yoga practice by Elizabeth that includes several balancing poses and will help you explore how the state of mind affects your balance and presence in poses. To change this practice to your linking log in to your Sequence Wiz account and locate it under Shared Sequences. After you copy it to My Sequences you can change it any way you like. Learn more about Sequence Wiz membership