Chapter 2: Stability – The physical body (Asana)
2.1. The true nature of health
2.2. Awareness: Every pore of the skin has to become an eye
2.3. Dynamic Extension: From the core of your being
2.4. Relaxation: In every pose there should be repose
2.5. Lightness: Think light and feel light
2.6. Balance: Evenness is harmony
All of us begin with imbalances, favoring one side or the other. When one side is more active than the other, the active side must become the guru of the inactive side to make it equally active. To the weaker side we must apply attention. Seek balance in all positions by observing the differences on the right and left as well as the intensity of stretch from plane to plane, limb to limb, muscle to muscle, joint to joint and from bottom to top, side to side and back to front.
In each asana, if the contact between the body and the floor –the foundation– is good, the asana will be performed well. Always watch your base: be attentive to the portion nearest to the ground. Correct first from the root. The standing poses are meant to begin providing this foundation for life. The feet are like the roots of a tree. And if the roots of the tree are weak, a big storm can just disrupt the whole tree. That is why balance poses help one to maintain stability in times of difficulty and even when catastrophes occur. When stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow. Stability requires balance.
Balance is the state of the present –the here and now. The mind takes you constantly to the future, as it plans, worries and wonders. Memory takes you to the past, as it ruminates (re-chews the stuff) and regrets. The past, present and future are held together in each asana. And one has to find the median line of each asana so that the energy is properly distributed. When one weavers from the median line, then one goes either to the past or the future. Vertical ascending is the future, vertical descending is the past. The horizontal is the present. The present is the perfect asana. When you open up horizontally, future and past meet in the present. That is how dynamic extension and expansion allow you to find the balance and live more fully in the present.
The ancient sages said that the key to life was balance, balance in every layer of our being. But what are we supposed to balance? The answer lies in the tree qualities of nature, which are called the GUNAS. These tree qualities must be balanced in your asana practice and in your body, mind and soul. The tree gunas are: tamas (mass or inertia), rajas (vibrancy or dynamism) and sattva (luminosity). In our body tamas predominates. It has to . The body needs mass, bones need density and muscles need solidity and firmness. Density in bones is virtue, but in your brain it is a vice. In our brain and nervous system rajas predominates. With regard to asana this means that initially we need to exert ourselves more as resistance is greater. But once there is movement and then momentum, penetration of the mind can start. We want a quick mind but not an agitated one. In the end we want a calm , clear mind which brings us to sattva. In a world of objects and sensory excitement, tamas and rajas reign. But if you come to yoga with a wish to learn how truly to relax and yet remain alert, you are expressing a wish that sattva will play a more dominant role in your life. The interplay of these three guna forces is of crucial importance in your yoga practice. You have to learn to identify and observe them in order to be able to adjust and balance their proportions and as you penetrate inward, bring the beauty of sattva to the surface. You are like an artist with three basic pigments on his palette, forever remixing and blending them in order to express the right combination of color, form and light on your canvas.