Stability and Freedom

Not afraid in this dancer pose on the ledge at Morrow Mountain State Park.
Not afraid in this dancer pose on the ledge at Morrow Mountain State Park.

I was asked to imagine I was creating my own style or “brand” of yoga (which is actually pretty contrary to my belief about teaching  yoga) and come up with three main points that should be conveyed in every class. I have been teaching Yoga for a while now, but at first it was very hard for me to come up with the number one thing that I wanted each student to experience and understand while in a yoga class. I started to notice the difficulties students would have in my class and how I would address them on a physical level in hopes I could make a connection to that difficulty on a human experience level, as well.

What I observed was that if the student was not stable and grounded in the pose, whether a very challenging one-legged balance or a kneeling pose, they didn’t seem relaxed and free to go further to express and experience more sensation. Their facial expressions and body language said that they were doing all they could to maintain this one place in their body and asking for more would be futile.

Then I heard these words come out of my mouth: “Become aware of your foundation and make sure it’s stable, because without a stable foundation there is no freedom to shine and try something new.”

And there it was. The number one thing I want my students to experience and understand each and every time they practice yoga. And such is life.

There may be a big misconception about stability and freedom.  From a distance it would seem that you can’t have both at the same time. There’s the married person who craves freedom and the single person who craves stability.  And then you have the person who is bored with the same old job and the unemployed person who would give anything for a chance to get his foot in the door.  There are people who live in the same small town their whole lives and dream of getting out into the big, anonymous world, and those that constantly travel and move and crave a place to call home where everybody knows their name.

This confusion causes a lot of problems in our lives. From the perspective of a person who has lived some days of my life on shaky ground, I can say that when I feel secure and capable and can predict what’s coming next, I have courage to take chances and put myself out there and survive transitions.

Being grounded in a yoga pose means that you know and feel what is connecting you to the earth and you give it special attention and honor. You line your foundation underneath the places that carry the most weight and accept that weight with the awareness that this allows the rest of your body to open and lengthen and go for bigger things in the posture.

It is important that we find ways to feel secure, especially when the winds of change start blowing strong. We must cling to the things that don’t change, like faith and love and gratitude.  My kids make fun of me because when we pull in our driveway I always to say “I love our home”, but it comforts me to know that there is a big, soft pillow waiting for our heads each night. Somedays that is enough to make me feel as free as a bird.

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