Yoga practice is filled with dualities, with polar limits. We start as beginners and advance towards mastery. Some of us have pelvises that are habitually held in a backward tilt, some of us in a forward tilt. Some of us are tightly-ligamented, some of us are loosely held in our joints. Some of us are really good at back bends, some of us at forward bends. For centuries, the practice of yoga was imparted one on one, teacher to student, so that the vast possibilities of the teachings could be tailored to the specific individual. What is true for one individual might not be for another. In this time of group classes and rock-star teachers, how can we, as individuals, find our way through the practice?
Satya (truthfulness) is a subject I think about a lot as I prepare my classes. It is one of the five yamas (observances), the essential moral underpinnings, of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras. It comes up in the context of the instructions I am going to teach. How can I teach a pose in such a way that the teaching is correct, truthful, for everyone in the classroom, and will remain truthful as the student’s body becomes stronger, more open and their practice develops? How can I teach in such a way that can correct the imbalances and misalignments that come up casino online in the bodies of my students, but that doesn’t reduce them to everything that they are doing wrong? And on the other side of the duality, how can I impart the joy of possibility, of investigation and discovery that can come in a yoga practice while still providing a grounding in the realities of mechanics, sequencing and structure?
Is it possible to come up with a series of absolutes that apply regardless of the person or the pose? Are there a set of values we can set for the body that can be applicable in every situation, or at least in most? I believe there are. I present them here for you, in no particular order of importance:
- An integrated spine with soft tissue and organ support that allows for cohesion and flexibility.
- A long spine with balanced curves, so that even in flexion, extension or twisting, there is as much space around its entire length as possible, given its shape, to allow for freedom around the nerves and blood vessels and for space around the organs.
- Freedom around the joints to allow for healthy contact between the the connecting bones so that the joint can remain mobile and protected.
- Easeful dynamic opposition through the entire system, allowing for both elasticity and stability in all the joints of the body, including those of the spine.
- Liveliness of thought and intention so that the mind can support and organize the body, bringing the two into an organic whole.
- Freedom in the breathing mechanism so that all the many movements that accompany the breath can happen without effort.
- A connection to the ground and a relationship to gravity that allows the body to be soft and passive where needed, but also active and dynamic where necessary.
- An openness of attitude of the mind toward the body that allows for fresh experience in the moment and not action based on an accumulation of past experience.
I’m sure this list could be amended and added to, but I think I can safely say that each of these principles can apply to every situation in which the body might find itself during the day, not just in a yoga practice. With these in mind, any action a person might take, any instruction a teacher might give could be though to be aligned with fundamental truth and might not then have to be qualified or countermanded at a later date.
A version of this post originally appeared at yogaunion.com