A posture is a unique set of engagements and relaxations. When done correctly, this physical control results in the asana. Yet, postures often get misunderstood in two ways: 1) they get mistaken for their set-up, 2) they get mistaken for their shape.
A POSTURE IS NOT A SHAPE
In Standing Head to Knee, we might think "if I just touch my forehead to my knee the right thing is happening". This is not the case. That shape could be accomplished by lying on the floor and touching the head to the knee without exerting any muscular effort. It could be accomplished by using a strap. It could be done by receiving an assist in which a teacher makes the position possible.
None of these would build strength, balance, or physical awareness. In essence, the physical control of the asana would not be required nor practiced.
In the asana, touching the head to the knee is only the result of my abdominal muscles engaging to round the spine and the hip flexors and quadriceps engaging to lift the leg and flex the hip. This is the posture: the unique set of engagements and relaxations. This is what we actually want to practice. We do not want to practice the shape, nor the set-up.
SET-UP IS NOT THE POSTURE
Let's say we want to visit our friend at their house. We get in the car and make sure we properly buckle our seat belt. Then we turn the car on with the correct key. Then we make sure we hold the steering wheel properly, and follow each traffic sign and rule as we drive toward their house.
But when we are close to our friend's house, we simply keep driving because we are so focused on the proper way to drive. We keep following the road signs and the speed limit, adjusting at each moment to the demands of the road. We focus on executing the rules of driving as carefully and precisely as possible. But then we never visit our friend, we never stop making adjustments, we never stop going there. We mistake getting there for being there.
This is what happens if we focus on set-up. In an asana, we do need to set ourselves up for success. We need to get into the correct position. But then we need to stop going there and actually be there. We need to actually visit our friend, the asana. We need to sit in stillness with them and hear what they have to say. We need to feel their presence.
Let's not forget what a posture is. A posture requires a precise set of movements. It demands our effort, focus and presence. Let's not mistake this for a shape or the way that we get there. If we do, we will miss the asana entirely.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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