Remember the Sting song “If you Love Somebody, Set Them Free”? As it turns out this is a pretty good yoga cue; one that I have been trying to take for several years now. I might be getting closer.
In yoga class we all want to be able to do the peak postures. We want to feel beautiful and free and limber and happy as we flex our muscles and stretch our minds. This is particularly true of arm balances. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand) and Eka Pada Koundinyanasana II (my all time favorite arm balance, no idea what it is called in English other than the pose dedicated to the Sage Koundinya, but that is not very anatomically descriptive – One-Legged-Arm-Balance maybe? It is pictured above with a very good dog) are great examples of yoga postures we really want to own.
We work, we sweat, we practice, we fall, and we try again and again. One of the main things we forget to do in this quest is soften. Once you’ve got good alignment and enough strength (chances are very good that you are strong enough or almost strong enough for these postures – the biggest muscle you need to strengthen for these arm balance is the big one inside your noggin), you need to let go of the quest. This can be particularly hard to do when you’ve struggled to get as far as you’ve gotten. But if your practice is a struggle, then you are practicing struggling – which is pretty much counter to any ideas I’ve heard about yoga.
The trick is to progress with strength and determination, but also with ease and letting go. A sense of humor helps, too. Work hard and have some faith that your body is awesome, but enjoy the journey and have some fun with it. Whether you “achieve” a particular yoga pose this month or in the next lifetime is not the point. Eka Pada Koundinyanasana II is not the destination. The yoga practice creates a great opportunity for self love; the more we practice, the better we become. Rumi says, “This dance is the joy of existence.” This is where we find the perfection in a posture.
Sting says, “Free, free, set them free.” He is a yoga teacher now, so it’s not too big a leap to imagine that the Somebody he refers to in the song is You – as in “If you love yourself, set yourself free.” You can try this one off the mat, too.