‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’
Victor E Frankl
It’s easy to lose sight through the intricate origami of limb-stretching, that yoga asana practice is simply about placing yourself in space. Each posture is both a container of space, for you to be present within and experience, and it also moves you into the space around you.
When we place the body in asana you want to actively lift the body into the posture, whether inverting, or back-bending or standing in warrior. Each pose and each breath invites you to meet the space whole-heartedly. Correct alignment has its roots in correct relationship: relationship between the left and the right sides of our body, the front and the back, upper and lower. Really this is the work of your yoga practice, to map out the terrain of your body and soul, eliminate imbalance and weakness, and cultivate an abundant strong landscape from which to live your life.
In a tangible practical way, the biomechanics reflect whether these relationships are balanced and healthy or not. If you have a tight muscle in one place, you can be sure that you will have a corresponding weak muscle somewhere else. When one part of the skeletal, muscular or even mental body is not functioning fully, another part of the body will take the slack and eventually become overburdened. The longer you practice the more you unpick knots and threads and lethargy, just as you would continually smooth a stone of rough edges.
And the 'mind space' - what is that? Zen teachings explain that by placing the body in a posture that is alert and relaxed in equal measure, we are also placing the mind into a posture of receptivity and relaxation. When practicing with the mental clarity and focus, we train the mind to read the environment and situation or posture we are in truthfully.
Are you required to soften into the space around you; or harden? Are you comfortable or not? After years of both sitting in mediation, struggling with my own posture, and watching students struggle with how they hold themselves in a space for stillness, it seems apt to see the space behind as a metaphor for the past, for what has been - dont slump forward and lean into the future to resist what has been - rest into it. Setting the body in a perfect yoga posture is as much about resting into the space behind as your support, your wisdom; and opening without rushing into what lies ahead. Then we get to take up residence fully and radiantly in the centre of our souls, this moment now!
At the centre of the posture and all living things is the dao, the tranquility in which we find stillness, stability and rest.