What is Right Effort in Yoga?

Pose and repose, action and reflection, doing and being – these are just some of the ways we seek to balance our efforts in the alignment-based asana practice. Too much action we lose sensitivity, too much reflection we lose the momentum that leads to shifts and new openings. Right effort in yoga is a subtle skill. The strings of our lute must be “not too tight not too loose,” as the Buddhist story teaches.

Unlike academic subjects or purely physical pursuits, optimizing our effort in yoga to deepen our practice we pulse back and forth between two ends of a spectrum. Action requires us to do. Reflection requires us to observe, feel and sense the effects of what we have done. We continue, incorporating that information into our next action. And so on. In this way, learning happens as a result of the dance between the two and the process by which they build on each other.

Right effort in yoga mirrors the rhythmic pulsation that defines life itself, continually going in and moving out in a dance of self-reflection and expansion. How awesome to realize that we embody that essential process in the attention and energy we direct toward our practice.

Like the yin and the yang, the polarities of pose and repose, action and reflection, doing and being also hold elements of each other within them.  Acting asks us to be present, to let go of expectations, and even the memory of how a pose once felt.  Reflecting comes once there a willingness to let go of our doing in order to pause, observe, and listen. There is a kind of effort required even in surrender.

Then there is the third, transcendent space that encompasses the two polarities. Where action and reflection unite in the space of oneness. It is the experience where both of these are happening and not happening.

The pose, the repose and the state of dynamic stillness where the two unite are all, in fact, part of yoga.