Finding Balance, the Space Between Extremes: Sivananda Yoga Posture Stories
By Daniel Rama
Over time, our experience of yoga asanas evolves beyond the physical — the postures become our teachers and companions, showing us our relationship with ourselves and the world. Enjoy this collection of stories submitted by Sivananda Yoga practitioners from around the world, sharing their in-depth connections with each asana of the Sivananda sequence.
To me, life is all about balance. I think that when we observe how well we balance in our yoga postures, it gives us a clue to how well we keep balance during our daily ups and downs.
Learning balance postures rarely come easily to those who can’t keep balance in life. Maybe some of the advanced postures require more flexibility or strength, but in reality the principles of balance are exactly the same.
As a Sivananda Yoga teacher and someone who specializes in hand balancing, balance has been an art that I’m continually refining. I’ve also worked with many people who are looking to find balance in their postures and their lives.
When we say “find balance,” we refer to that subtle spot — the middle point — between two extremes. The closer we are to residing in our center, the better our balance is. This doesn’t only apply to postures … that’s why we can quickly find out during our yoga practice if we’re having an “off-balance” day.
Balance requires pointed concentration in what we’re doing. It encourages a balance between tension and relaxation. It demands that we find balance between our abilities to hold strong … and our capacities to stay flexible. Again, these principles are not just for postures — they’re lifelong practices in everything we do.
In many ways, learning to live a balanced life can be compared to learning how to sleep.
When we look closely, we begin to understand that sleep is a truly impossible activity to learn or teach.
Though we can learn the prerequisites of how to get a good night’s sleep, that alone will not bring sleep itself. We can learn how to to put on our coziest pajamas and make a warm cup of calming tea. We can learn to steer clear of phones, computers, and television screens before bed. We can even learn pre-bedtime stretches. But after all that, the sleep part itself comes on its own.
Sleep is a gift that comes when we are ready. If we are properly prepared for sleep, it happens naturally and effortlessly. After years of studying balance, I believe we achieve balance in the same way. We can prepare and build our fundamentals, and the better we master the pre-requisites, the more likely balance will come. But balance is not something that can be forced. Eventually, just like sleep, true balance comes effortlessly and naturally.
To the majority of yoga practitioners, hand balances and inversions are some of the most difficult and intimidating postures to perform. I often see students trying to kick up into handstand repeatedly, only to fall back down. Even if they get a moment of stillness in the air, it’s only fleeting. They can’t find success in their balances, and I think part of the problem is overexertion.
Balance is not about force. When we try to force ourselves to sleep, we never succeed. When we try to force or muscle our way into a balance posture, we won’t get the results we want. We can train ourselves to balance, but we can’t force ourselves into balance. Just as it won’t work in life, it won’t work with our asana practice.
The key is to step back and look at the bigger picture. I still focus on the prerequisites of balancing. The fundamentals can be practiced over and over again, no matter how strong of practitioners we are. We need diligence, patience, and discipline — this is what brings balanced individuals — not forcing or rushing. When we take our time and practice intelligently, the gift of balance comes … naturally and effortlessly.
Every week from January 1 – March 26, 2018, we will be sharing a new story — You can access all of the current ones here.