The Essence of a Yoga Pose
All movements can be healing. Then again, all movements can be harmful. Healing through yoga is a foundation of my practice, but what makes the same yoga pose healing or harmful? When I first considered this question, what popped into my head was “one’s intention within the movement.” In other words, do you want the movement to be healing or is there another purpose?
These movements we call exercises, or asanas, can have other purposes. Some may be doing these movements for competitive purposes, others aesthetic and for fitness, which does not always mean wellness and I’m certain there are other reasons. If your purpose is anything other than health, healing, or wellness, then health, healing and wellness will not happen; it’s not like wellness can be a by-product. Yet even if you want the movements to be healing it does not mean they will be. This is something I had to learn the hard way.
Your intention is important, yet this is only step one. What I mean is just because you want the movements to be healing does not mean you know what it takes to make these movements healing. Just because you practice restorative yoga poses, it doesn’t make them healing. The reason is that you don’t know how to make them healing.
Step two, knowing/accepting you do not know. Once you understand you do not know how to make these movements healing, which I call “humility”, these movements will then have a chance to heal. Once you accept that you do not know, then you will figure it out. In other words, then you must start listening!
This is step three: listening. Listening is another way of saying “awareness” or “mindfulness”. This listening opens a world of possibilities and this world is called Yoga. Mindfulness and yoga are what can make a movement, or “yoga asana,” or any exercise, healing.
Your body is speaking to you in a language called Sensation. According to sensation, or what your body is saying due to the multiplicity of things that are affecting your body, you discover where in the movements you should be. A movement becomes healing because you are honoring what you are feeling; this is why you have feelings, to guide you. Since your power yoga teacher is your life experience and your teacher taught you the only way you can take care of anything is to touch it gently, which is another word for moderation. You are listening to find the place in each movement-- somewhere between too much and not enough. When you find this moderate degree, which will always be changing day to day (so you always must be “listening”), then and only then will you discover the healing power of yoga, or yoga asana.
So, what is the essence of yoga? Now that you are officially doing a yoga pose because you have integrated the three steps above, let us move on to the essence of a yoga pose. The essence of a yoga pose has three elements: gentleness, breath, and space.
1st: Gentleness. Touching something gently is the key to all healthy relationships, including the one you have with your body. Gentle is not as easy as it sounds because gentleness will not allow you to force your body deeper or try to transform your body.
2nd: Breath. Keep your breath flowing free. Do not allow your breath to be strained, choppy, erratic or held. In other words, stay calm and present. There has never been a yoga pose worth straining over. You do not practice yoga to build tension and strengthen your reactiveness, but rather, to achieve mind and body balance.
3rd: Space. In each pose look for every way to make space within the movement. This will allow the body to activate, lengthen, decompress, and strengthen. It will increase circulation and dissolve tension as well as counteract gravity’s normal effect on your body. So, the elements of yoga can be thought of more granularly by defining the elements of yoga pose, which include gentleness, breath, and space.
When partaking in a poweryoga.com class these steps and elements will be the main emphasis and a constant theme, because if these movements are not healing they are not Power Yoga. :)