Applying steadiness and ease to each asana, whether to each pose or to the practice as a whole, creates a safe, active, and balanced practice. This is done by creating intelligent sequencing, and by giving precise and aligned instructions. With correct sequencing (gradually building towards a peak, weaving necessary puzzle pieces or component parts throughout) it makes the poses more accessible and safe, allowing students to have the best experience. In addition, precise and aligned instructions, not only creates safety (cueing, ‘pin your elbows in, catch yourself elbow height’ for Chaturanga, saves our shoulders from rotator cuff injury), but we also ‘work from the skin to the soul’, as Mr. Iyengar states. We get more and more subtle – using our fingertips to create lift in our forearms for AMS. When we do different actions, what is the effect? This also helps settle the brain, creating sthira. In addition, using counter poses (and transition poses) in our teaching, brings us back into balance. For example, after a peak backbend, like Urdhva Dhanurasana, it is good practice to follow-up with a supine twist, which releases the back and neutralizes the spine, bringing us back to balance. Lastly, counter actions (lift inner arches, as firm outer ankle in) themselves bring us back to the midline, to balance. Yoga should help us find the midline on mat.
Plank on the forearms is a challenging yoga pose for many students. In it’s very nature, it teaches and creates stability in the body (stable like a plank of wood). You get compact at your center (lift tops of thighs to ceiling, as you release tailbone to your heels). Your lower belly supports you like a tray. By pressing back with your heels, as you extend your sternum forward, you create length in the body and stability, like a taut piece of rope. Rooting down with your forearms, this too creates a steady, sturdy foundation. Focusing on the breath, making sure it is long and even, helps bring ease into the pose. Breath is key, as it is in all yoga poses. A soft Drishti, gaze, helps create Sthira and Sukha in the mind and body. Smiling helps too. In challenging postures, it is especially important to find steadiness and ease. The goal is that this will translate into life – that when we are faced with challenges, we can be find steadiness and ease.