How is it that yoga masters look calm and serene when their bodies are tied and twisted into knots? Part of the reason is that years and decades of yoga practice have made the poses easier, but there is more to it than that. Experienced yogis also know how to cultivate ease; they work with the mind, body and breath to bring about tranquility, even in challenging situations.
First Comes Effort
It’s a cliche, but you get out of yoga what you put into it. If you are striving for ease and comfort in your yoga poses, it’s going to take a lot of work. Consistent, dedicated practice is the key to success in yoga. Find a time of day and several days of the week that you can set aside for yoga. If you make that commitment, there will be progress.
Even with several hours of yoga practice each week, you must be patient. The yoga masters set aside several hours per day for yoga asanas. They were putting a week’s worth of practice into one or two days. For the average person, that type of dedication isn’t practical. For most of us, yoga brings about change one small step at a time.
An Easy and Difficult Pose
A yoga pose like shoulder stand, salamba sarvangasana, can be used to illustrate the interplay of effort and ease. It takes effort to roll onto the tops of your shoulders, swing the legs up and to press your hands into your back for support. Students new to the pose are rarely straight.
To be straight in shoulderstand, the back muscles have to press forward to lift and open the chest, keeping the torso on top of the shoulders. The front of the hips have to open with the thighs pressing back and all sides of the legs extending toward the ceiling. The body struggles to stay in alignment until these actions are learned, but once they are, when the body is perfectly straight, the pose becomes much easier, almost effortless.
When the Work Pays Off
At that point, when physical alignment and balance are in place, a yoga pose becomes quiet and still. Knowing this is true, we can nurture the process along. By keeping the breath smooth and even, by keeping tension out of the eyes and face, and by staying present and observant, we prepare an environment where alignment and balance are more likely to occur. When all of these things happen at the same time, we find a calm and serene state, even if the physical posture appears difficult.
Almost everything in life of value requires effort, dedication and patience. Why should yoga be any different? It can take years for these moments to come about. When they do, when there is a fleeting glimpse of inner peace, we understand that the efforts needed to create ease are all worthwhile.