As day and night come into balance, we too feel the pull to re-align and re-commit to finding balance in our lives. In that spirit, this month, we’d like to share two recent pieces from Yoga Journal online. The first, written by Roger Cole, for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, explores how to still the wobbling and create a sense of fluid stability in one-legged poses. The second article draws on the Anusara Yoga tradition and includes a challenging balance sequence from Desiree Rumbaugh for intermediate and advanced practitioners.
Plumb Perfect by Roger Cole
“When we balance, we align our body’s center of gravity with the earth’s gravitational field. Quite literally, we place ourselves in physical equilibrium with a fundamental force of nature. But we can’t achieve this harmony by remaining absolutely still. Instead, we must refresh our balance moment after moment. The sustained effort to center and recenter, when successful, brings not only our flesh and bones into balance but also our nerve impulses, thoughts, emotions, and very consciousness. Hence, we feel calm. Equilibrium brings equanimity.
Lack of equilibrium brings just the opposite. There is something uniquely frustrating about losing our balance in one-legged postures. It goes beyond the instinctive fear of falling and strikes directly at the ego. After all, we rarely tumble to the ground and hurt ourselves; we simply put our other foot down. Yet that simple act can be maddening.
If we fall out of Vrksasana when practicing alone, we often hear an internal critic saying, “What’s wrong with you? You should be able to do this!” If we’re in a class, the same fall can bring a sense of humiliation that’s greatly disproportionate to the physical event. We feel out of control when we lose our balance, and the ego hates to lose control—especially when other people are around to see it.
Despite the frustration, one-legged balancing asanas offer so many benefits that it’s well worth the trouble to practice them. In addition to promoting concentration and calm, these poses strengthen our muscles and build our coordination and balance, improving our ways of standing and walking as well as how we perform many other everyday activities. And these benefits might actually prolong our lives, helping us avoid the falls that often lead to injuries and death among the elderly.
The three essential elements of balance are alignment, strength, and attention. Alignment of the body with gravity is crucial; it makes balance physically possible. Strength gives us the power to create, hold, and adjust alignment. And attention continually monitors alignment so we know how to correct it from one moment to the next.”
To read the rest of Cole’s article, which expands on these three essential elements of balance, click here.
A Fine Balance by Desiree Rumbaugh
“Students of Anusara yoga often have beautiful, awe-inspiring backbends. With their fingers spread wide and their hearts soaring, they convey immense freedom and joy-even in “baby backbends” like Cobra or Locust.
That’s because Anusara founder John Friend teaches that it’s not just the shape of a pose that can make it magnificent or therapeutic, but the energy and intention behind it, as well. So in addition to learning alignment, Anusara students also learn about Muscular Energy (hugging the muscles to the bones) and Organic Energy (extending energy out).
This sequence eases you gracefully and playfully into Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose), a pose that combines an arm balance with a backbend. It also enables you to work with the two types of energy. “By first engaging your muscles and drawing your energy in, you’ll be strong in the outward expression, reaching far beyond your perceived boundaries or limitations,” says Desiree Rumbaugh, an Anusara teacher based in Scottsdale, Arizona, who created this sequence. “Even if you can’t get into the full pose today, the variation allows you to taste the richness and freedom that happen when you infuse an asana with your energy.”
Click here for Rumbaugh’s full 10-pose balance sequence, including photographs and detailed instructions for each pose.