(Written sometime in 2011)
In his commentary on the Yoga Spandakarika, Daniel Odier explains that when we give up trying to make our lives fixed, our experience becomes more intense because movement can come into fullness. I would add that our experience becomes larger and more expansive because we no longer dedicate part of ourselves to trying to control the uncontrollable and thus have more of ourselves available to experience. For example, if I forcefully tried to keep the leaves from falling off of the trees, I would expend a lot of energy doing so and would also not get to experience the graceful beauty with which they fall or their fabulous blooming in the spring. In contrast, by simply experiencing the change, more of myself would be available to watch the exquisiteness of their natural cycle.
In yoga asana practice, we experience something similar when we try to balance standing on one leg. If we try too hard to balance, to be completely, rigidly still, we are almost doomed to ungracefully fall. Conversely, if we allow our weight to subtly shift so that we can realign our bodies in space, our balance becomes both more dynamic and sustainable. In this way, balance becomes a dance. This is not too idealized if we can understand nature as a dance. Wolf Dieter Storl poetically explains: “All of Nature is dance; the dance of the wind and waves, the rounds of seasons and tides, the swirl of the planets and galaxies, the coming and going of thoughts and feelings, going on endlessly. At long last, even the scientists cannot ignore the metaphor and begin to talk meaningfully of the dance of subatomic particles swirling through the cosmos as ever transforming fields of matter and energy…What is dance, but the continual loss and instantaneous regaining of balance?” (139) When we allow a standing balance shape to be a dance, our jaws soften, our breath deepens and we are able to more fully experience what it feels like to stand on one leg. Fortunately, we also fall less and more gracefully when we do fall. Imagine if we could apply this to the flow of our daily lives. What would happen if we could experience any shift in our lives– joyful, sad, monumental, subtle, terrifying – as simply part of the great dance of being alive. How would our day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience shift?
To explore the embodied dance of standing balance in a backbending shape, come join me at my Natarajasana workshop on November 5th. While you don’t need to be able to catch your foot behind your head to join us, you do need to bring your breath and awareness. For more info, see the “Workshops” tab. Also, if you are interested in hip opening, you could stop by the early morning classes at Dupont where we are developing hip opening, standing balance shapes until Thanksgiving.