Reacting vs. RespondingSun, April 1, 2007 - 11:30 AM
In balancing poses like hand stand, head stand, side arm balance, even tree pose, how does one keep from keeling over? In other words, what really is balance?
Yoga teachers will often answer this by saying that balance comes from a "connection to the core." This has led some students to do hours upon hours of abdominal work, and still never find balance. Frustration (and probably indigestion) following.
Not to say that there is anything wrong with developing a strong core -- you definitely feel those muscles when you hold the poses above for extended periods -- but it is clear though that core does not equal balance. Other useful instructions like working your fingers in hand stand, lifting your shoulder blades in head stand, hugging to the mid-line in all poses, while clearly the right instructions, also do not equal balance.
So again what is balance? It is clear that balance is not a static thing. There is fluctuation. When you are truly balancing, you are not holding yourself up. There is an imaginary line -- a plumb line as it were -- that you are trying to cling to. If you come too far away from that line, physics takes over and down you come.
So a key then is being in that "zone" of fluctuation that your foundation allows and staying there for longer and longer periods of time. Staying there should come too without compromising the form and the actions within the pose itself (such as keeping the spine long, limbs extending, etc.)
So, of course the question then is, how does one stay longer in that zone of fluctuation? I believe it helps to think of the differences of these two words and their connotations: "reacting" and "responding."
When you "react" to something -- out of fear, out of avoidance, out of emotions -- your body stiffens. You jerk or move quickly. You try to separate, or distance yourself from the stimuli. It is a disconnection and an over-compensation that takes away from that plumb line and out of the zone that balance allows.
When you "respond" to something, you keep the sensivity, the connection to the stimuli. You remain supple. It is more like a dance. The fluctuations are merely steps within that dance. And just like in a dance, if you make your steps too big or out of sync, your partner does not want to dance with you any more (and again you fall out of the pose.)
Ultimately too, you may be leading the dance, but you are not completely in control. This means that you might need to keep company with fear and other emotions that reside in that zone, and make dance partners of them too. No matter how expert you become at hand stand, it may always have a element of fear to it.
I believe that this has lessons for the rest of life too -- you know, beyond the yoga mat: How often do you choose "reacting" when "responding" might be more appropriate or yield better results.
What we do on the mat is just practice. The real yoga is what we take from the practice into the rest of our life.
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balancing act vs being balancegreat ponderings...and something which is always interesting to explore
In class...i always begin by coming to center..taking precious breaths to connect to core
this being not only physical of course...but that essence of center...which resides in the mind/body connection...
seperating the desire to come into the pose and perfect it...from the truth of the movement..to be alert...present and at ease....
first instance...sirshasana...headstand...is vastly different when approached from a jump in perspective
which beginners (which i teach) often take...and challenges the balance ot begin with
versus the method of dolphin pose..slowly working to extension...hovering between floor and air.... bending...and coming up..
when entering the place you seek...is it not best to move slowly with great care.....
..have you noticed also how vastly balance changes daily as well and side to side....inner balance...reflected...
it all is the mind....
i defenitely agree about reacting vs responding....
ahhhh to take the wisdom into these places always...sadhana...sadhana...sadhana,...
you've inspired me to go do a headstand....
now with the breath..moving slowly....ahhhhh...ooooo....mmmmm
"What we do on the mat is just practice. The real yoga is what we take from the practice into the rest of our life."
So very true...
Thanks for the wonderful reminder...
|No need to add to what's already been said; just a thank-you for sharing your insight, Scott.|
What a nice view of balance and life. We all have a lot of balance in our life.
|well explained. will remember this the next time i feel any frustration in a balancing pose. it's all compassion in the end. i can't wait till i'm back in LA i want to visit one of your classes.|