Yoga is a Dance between “Stop” and “Go”

One of my yoga teachers taught us that yoga is a dance between “stop” and “go.” In other words, when you are in a pose, do you heed when your body wants you to push further and when it wants you to back off? The right practice will engage the body, back off a little when the body says so, engage it a little further, back off etc. until the pose expresses itself most naturally in the body.

A practice that our teacher offered us was a standing forward fold (uttanasana) using blocks under your hands and with bent knees. The point of the exercise was to watch when in deepening the forward fold your lower back “puffs” up–a sign that your body is not happy with the pose. When you deepen a forward fold in this supported variation, either by straightening the knees or reaching your fingers to the ground, you will feel when your body is no longer happily challenging itself and is quite miserable forcing itself. The lesson of the exercise is that, so long as your body is dramatically resisting a pose and energetically trying to get out of it, you aren’t honouring your yoga practice.

Stop and Go w arrows.png

Notice here how the red lines on my lower back in the left-hand photos create an angle (because my lower back “puffs” up) and are parallel in the right-hand photos (indicating a healthier lower back). Similarly, my upper back is overly curved on the left, but healthier on the right. Finally, the purple lines demonstrate the “energy” of the pose. On the left, my body seems anxious to get out of the pose, curving upwards. On the right, my body is “settled” in the pose and much happier!

The practice of watching for signs that your body wants you to stop or go will help you reap so many more benefits from your practice. Not only will you be able to attune to where your body is tight and resistant and where it is open, it will help you deepen into your asanas in a more natural way by calming your nervous system. When you are not over-stressing your body, when you prove to your body that you are only there to honour and protect it, it will open its gates to you and allow you to reach magnificent healing depths.

Give it a try, first with forward fold, and then with any asana you like!

May you be filled with peace,

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.37.02 PM

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Yoga is a Dance between “Stop” and “Go”

  1. It’s so important to stop when you feel that “just right” balance of work and comfort! I read “Light on Life” by BKS Iyengar recently, and one of the things he said that really stuck with me is that you should get comfortably into a pose, and then work to expand from the center (as opposed to trying to stretch further or bend deeper). I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind to make sure you’re furthering your practice without injuring yourself. Love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 Thank you so much for your insight! I love the note of expanding from the centre! I am finding people tend to overestimate the role of flexibility over strength in yoga. So that’s a great cue to help access the inner steadiness needed both, in mind and body, to practice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Holding a pose without going deeper (in my point of view), is a great way to build strength rather than flexibility (if you are at the right intensity and your body is fully engaged). If you are working up to poses like crow, handstand, 8-angle pose, etc. then that’s a good way to go. If you are looking for the mental openness that yoga can build up as well as increasing flexibility, then going deeper whenever you can without injuring yourself helps you develop that mental and physical flexibility. Thank you so much for all these great questions!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey babe! Thanks for sharing this. I wonder what you or your teacher think when other teachers say ‘the pose begins only when you want to leave the pose’. Kinda confused now. Energetically we should honour what our body tells us, but then why do teachers ask us to hold certain pose when it’s pretty painful, like chair pose? Any comments ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a wonderful question, thank you for sharing it! There is a difference between pain and discomfort, and there is a difference between physical discomfort and mental discomfort. The idea of the “stop” and “go” method is to overcome the physical discomfort by reassuring the body that you won’t push it past its limits, which allows the body to relax and for you to deepen the pose. Mental discomfort is a psychological block that prevents us from doing what we are actually able to do but don’t think we can. “The pose begins when you want to leave the pose” is a very effective way of overcoming the mental discomfort by breaking through the psychological barriers that are limiting your practice. So, energetically, you would play the edge of your body’s physical comfort, and you would push straight past the mental discomfort. Does that make sense? For instance, in chair pose, the intensity in the thighs and legs makes our minds go “I can’t hold this pose!” So ideally, we should hold it further to show our minds that it has a wrongful perception of our own capacities. But if our hamstrings are super tight and our bodies are screaming “This hurts! This actually hurts! Why are you injuring me?” Then you back off a little (you don’t leave the pose, you just make it a bit easier by not squatting so low), until your body feels safe again and you deepen again. So you never stop doing the pose, you just play it’s intensity until your body can naturally melt into the pose in a non-physically-threatening way. I hope this made sense! Thank you for starting this fascinating discussion!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. This makes a lot of sense. And your advice to the comments in here are so enlightening. “When you are not over-stressing your body, when you prove to your body that you are only there to honour and protect it, it will open its gates to you and allow you to reach magnificent healing depths.” I love what you said here. Will keep this in mind always.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s