another way

My favorite yoga sequence (vinyasa),
begins (as do many, actually) with the basic standing pose
(samisthiti, equal standing pose or pose of equal balance
or tadasana, mountain pose).

In such standing poses,
I find I have to draw my attention to my shoulders
(doesn’t that just sound like a yoga instructor?!).
Because I carry tension in them though,
I have to very consciously drop them,
rotate them back and spread them
(and to keep them both rotated back and spread creates
one of those challenging and delicious ongoing internal stretches).

Balance in these poses
is achieved stacking neck over spine
bringing chin up and head back.
The line of balance then runs vertically down the spine—
between the shoulders
into the tailbone scooped forward
(rolling thighs in and pelvis forward
creates another one of those lovely internal stretches),
and then down between the legs and feet.

Now, while I’m not always appropriately aligned
(chin up, head and shoulders back
everything stacked on top of each other),
this is still the balance to which I am most accustomed—
with my center of gravity between the two sides of me—
right and left.
And to draw my attention, again, to my shoulders—
is to notice their symmetry—one on the right, one on the left—
balancing each other out
on a horizontal line
perpendicular to the vertical line of centered balance
(it’s a geometry of balance!).

Some yoga poses, however,
and I’m thinking specifically of two twisting ones:
the prayer twist and the twisting triangle—
(namaskar parsvokonasana and parivritta trikonasana)
pose quite the challenge,
precisely because balance in these twisting poses
is attained by twisting past center
until my shoulders no longer form
the accustomed horizontal line
perpendicular to the vertical line of balance—
balancing each other out,
but each takes its unfamiliar place in the same vertical line
stacked on top of each other.

To move from accustomed symmetrical balance
to a stacked balance—
to get from the one balance to the other,
you have to go through positions that feel
about as unbalanced as positions can be.
When your shoulders are twisted, but not far enough—
neither symmetrically balanced nor stacked—
positions that cause your body to begin to struggle—
to fight itself
in vain attempt to impose balance.

It’s not only going beyond what you’re used to—
what feels balanced to you,
but actually going further than feels right.
It’s in moving out of balance
in ways that are uncomfortable and disturbing—
risking unbalance—
that you fall into a new balance …
or fall to the mat.

Standing on my own two feet though,
I’ll never know the wonder of another way.

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