In the middle of a workshop I was teaching about hips, I observed myself explaining why awareness of your body is valuable when working through asana/postures. I talked about diving into your experience and discovering what you need to do to bring your muscles into balance and your bones into alignment.
I believe what I said. By paying attention to the subtleties of how we hold our bodies and use our muscles we can alleviate pain caused by a misalignment we somehow programmed in ourselves somewhere along the line.
At that moment, however, I felt an incredible urge to stress that this practice of finding balance doesn’t come from a place of needing to be “fixed” or searching for “perfection.” We are not “bad” if we are out of balance and “good” if we are in balance. Even if we do manage to find balance it will probably be momentary and fleeting, like a sandcastle built up near the incoming tide or like the ever fluctuating energies of life. Even though I am dedicated to the practice of yoga, I may always walk around with hips out of balance. And this is ok.
I did not say any of these things to the class. The time we had left together was fleeting and the focus of the class was different. Nonetheless, there I was standing in front of a group of people teaching them the necessary tools to find balance but at the same time wanting to tell them that it is an ever changing fantasy that we need not be fixated on. A balancing yoga practice can ease pain and bring more emotional ease, but it’s not like a day comes where we achieve balance and are done with it.
My internal dialogue went something like this, “We do these poses to find more balance in our bodies…. But there is nothing wrong with you that needs to be fixed….Then why do this practice…. to find balance….”
This seeming contradiction strikes me as interesting. In this practice of yoga, I feel that there is a ‘balance’ to find between precision/determination in actions directed toward change and observation/acceptance of what is.
And this is where the contradiction falls apart. While I focus and observe the muscles in my hips that are out of balance (or a thought pattern or behavior etc.) I can still surrender and accept it for what it is. I can watch it grow, wither and change.
Through a balancing yoga practice I can learn how to participate in the delicate and magnificent dance that is energy. I can learn about what it means to be in a body in this life. I can become a witness to my fluctuations between pleasure and pain.
Balance is not a finish line that a yoga teacher tells you to aim for. It is not a point that is attained. It is a movement, an acknowledgement of what is.
This poem, written by Christian O’Keeffe says it all.
“In that moment when my skin becomes one with the graffitied train I listen by rivers,” he wrote. “That place where I belong. My eyes sail like driftwood to become one with the color blue, and give up my body to that sweetness which is neither pleasure nor pain. Which is nameless. Which is me.”