Published on June 27th, 2019 | by Catherine Tingey0
Effort and Ease
Effort and Ease
Each yoga pose is an expression of balance between activation (effort) and relaxation (ease).
There’s often a misconception that yoga is about reaching infinite levels of stretchability – a ‘flexibility at all costs’ approach.
That’s a mistake and can be dangerous.
For example, if you’re practicing an arm balance with a tightened jaw, you’re likely creating unnecessary tension somewhere in the body.
Even maintaining a clenched mind during practice is frowned upon.
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali defines the physical practice of yoga as Sthira sukham asanam.
Sthira is translated as steadiness or strength.
Sukham is translated as ease, contentment, pleasure. It also contains an element of spaciousness because ‘kham’ means space.
Asanam means physical posture – the geometric shapes we put our bodies in. It also means situation or circumstance.
Concisely, our physical yoga practice should be steady and comfortable, strong and relaxed – a combination of effort and ease.
I find this balanced approach very helpful in approaching life – is it possible to be both relaxed and focused while pursuing our goals off the mat?
Let’s examine the concept of effort and ease in a common foundational pose, Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I).
Activation points of effort include:
- Grounding down the four corners of the feet
- Hugging the outer hips toward the midline
- Lifting the rib cage out of the pelvis
Relaxation points of ease include:
- Softening the shoulder blades down the back
- Releasing the tail bone
- Softening the gaze
The next time you’re on your mat, try to approach familiar poses with the concept of effort and ease.
Notice where the effort is, then find the ease.
Tune into the subtlety of the posture – what feeling does being in this pose give you? Where do you feel space in your body? Where do you feel compression?
Do you feel steadiness? Do you feel strength? Do you feel grounded? Quiet? Which emotional states seem amplified from this posture?
Attunement to the balance between effort and ease in your yoga practice has real life application.
Where are you clenching in your professional or personal life? Is there something you want so badly but are unable to allow it to come to you?
Can you approach your career goals or interpersonal goals with a similar balance of control and surrender, effort and ease?