Balancing Poses
“…harmony, balance, poise, and power…” *

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Although many yoga poses require an element of balance, certain poses call upon our balancing skills in spades! Such poses have much to offer us and a well-rounded practice will include at least one or two. The balancing postures strengthen the physical body, strengthen our focus, and also remind us to have a sense of humor and humility!

One of the principle goals of yoga is to attain equanimity of mind that is not dependent on external circumstances. Most of us are easily content on a sunny Sunday afternoon when we don’t have much to do. But it’s much harder to be that content on a cold, windy day when you have an enormous to-do list and not enough time! Balancing poses give us a safe training ground to develop these skills, as we wobble and wiggle about in search of a steady pose... still trying to keep the mind and the breath steady. Just like the unpredictable tides of our day-to-day lives, the balancing poses are full of sudden starts and obstacles. Through regular practice of challenging balancing poses, we learn to trust our abilities in such situations. We learn to appreciate even brief moments of stillness for all that they have to offer. We learn to work with the tools we have, and to release our control-freak tendencies when things do not go as planned!

Balancing poses bring us face-to-face with the present moment, as we continually explore how to make ourselves stable. There is little time or opportunity to think of much else, and the mind is brought sharply into focus. The relentless urgency of balancing poses keeps our mind and our senses on task as they scan through the body looking for solutions and stability. With increasing frequency, one starts to find exhilarating moments of quiet and calm in the midst of “the storm,” bringing with them a sense of joy and accomplishment.

Physically, the balancing postures require an unusual load of strength, and are quickly fatiguing compared to many other poses. Taken away from the stability and familiarity of standing “on our own two feet” we must learn to use muscles in new ways in order to maintain our steady connection. New learning is especially difficult for muscles and is also very beneficial. When practicing the yoga postures, we hope to have as many options as possible available to us. Balancing poses wake up our bodies in new and subtle ways that we can use throughout our practice.

Ultimately, a big part of yoga is about finding balance: balance in our bodies, balance in our breath, balance in our emotions, and balance in our minds. Balancing poses help us balance strength and ease in the muscles, inhalation and exhalation during the postures, and focus and humor in our minds.

“It is a difficult balancing pose and one feels elated even if one can only balance for a few seconds.” **

* BKS Iyengar, describing Warrior III in “Light on Yoga.”
** BKS Iyengar, describing Goraksasana in “Light on Yoga.”

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Updated March 17, 2005