Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mental strength in asana practice

One of the things I've learned in the last couple of weeks is that mental strength and focus is at least as important as physical prowess in asana practice. When Aadil was here a couple weeks ago, he talked about using the mind to find the granthi in our bodies as we do asana practice. He placed a great deal of emphasis on breathing into the granthi so that energy would flow more easily through our bodies. Then asana practice becomea not so much about accomplishing a correct posture as it does about becoming more attuned to our higher selves. By bringing that mental focus to the practice, the hard edges and the striving and the huffing and puffing are taken away. It's paradoxical but by striving less we achieve more.

I got that last night in class, too, as we worked on Adho Mukha Svasana. After starting out by doing this pose, which happens to be one that I have always struggled with, alone, Ruth had us work with a partner. By simply gently pointing our fingers into the trapezius muscle of my partner, I could feel that muscle relax and at the same time his entire back relaxed into the pose. Then when he started trying to do the pose, the muscle would tighten and his back would crunch up again, too. I experienced the same thing myself. What I discovered that when I had it, I was very relaxed and the pose just flowed out. When I tried to do it, I was back to pushing and forcing myself into position. It felt very different. And it's surprising how difficult it is to just let go and let it happen.

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