Monday, May 3, 2010

At the core of practice

The muscle you need isn't what you think it is.

I first learned this lesson as a runner. When you're exhausted and you think you can't run any more, the muscles that carry you through are not in the legs. It's your upper body - arms and shoulders - that will keep you moving. When I started doing yoga, I thought that arm strength was needed for all sorts of poses, from plank to arm balances, when the key muscles are in fact in the core. Inversions? Yep, there are those abdominals again. Having trouble balancing? Try some ujjayi pranayama. Don't even get me started on mula bandha.

What about the balance between effort and relaxation? Sometimes the key to reaching further or doing something you have never done before is not to try harder but to let go. To stop pushing so hard, or maybe not to care so much. To find somewhere in the body or mind where you can surrender.

How do we know if we are doing the right thing to get where we want to be? I'm not sure there's any single right answer to this question. Remain curious. See what arises. Don't assume that you know what is needed. Be willing to open in any direction. Be willing to be surprised.


Sarah said...

What a great post. Thank you O Odonate One! (yes I had to look that up...what else to spend my time on ;D ) Your words go so well with some things I have been mulling over.

On the yoga class level: YES, every single time I get wobbly in a pose, the only way to regain my balance without just putting my foot down and starting all over again is to relax my body into its innate confidence and calm and center my mind away from external distractions. Weird how it's bloody hard to think of it as easy but if you can, then it is.

Do you think it's cheating to "meditate" while lying in a lawn chair?

dragonfly said...

My dear, it is never cheating to practice under any circumstances. A lawn chair is a great place to build the habit - as long as you meditate and don't fall asleep. Then when you really need it, those skills will be close at hand. Namaste, friend. :)