Strength and Flexibility

Action and Reflection

Doing and Being


Pose and Repose

Effort and Surrender

And the list goes on and on...

I couldn't wait to explore the fascinating nature of the pairs of opposites as described in yoga philosophy and how to balance them in practice and in life:

From Chapter 5 of "Evolving Your Yoga: Ten Principles for an Enlightened Practice":

"There’s a fundamental paradox in our journey as yogis. It's the fact that we are embodied spirits. We have a finite life, a body, an individual identity with its distinct personality and preferences. At the same time, yoga tells us we also have a mystical, expansive, sublime, universal, and ultimately infinite nature. Both are true.

Yoga is a journey where we use the mundane to know the spiritual. In practice, we employ the mind and body to nurture an experience that is beyond both mind and body. For this simple reason, practice at its essence is a dance between opposites.

Skillfully navigating the play between the polarities of our existence is at the heart of yoga practice. This is what I think of the principle of balancing the pairs of opposites.

From the start, the idea that the transcendent essence within the human being could be known in this lifetime, in this very body, was the goal of yoga. Out of this vision arose a set of practices and teachings, all based on the basic notion that one could experience freedom from the confines of the body and the temporal world while still inhabiting them.

Even if this is not our particular goal for practice, I think all of us, on some level, practice yoga as a way to restore a more expanded awareness of ourselves. We may or may not recognize that as a mystical, sacred essence. Nevertheless, one of the more intangible, yet precious benefits of yoga is that it reminds us we are bigger than our ordinary sense of ourselves; that we are more than just what our minds tell us.

This dichotomy of being both limited and expanded is especially apparent for those of us who use asana as a major part of our spiritual path.

The idea of using the body to explore the spirit, of fully inhabiting our physicality for the sake of going beyond it, is fascinating, isn't it? It's one of the reasons why postural practice is especially potent. Through it, we have the opportunity to actually embody aspects of spirit, to cultivate the transcendent within our very flesh and bones.

Spiritual wisdom is also paradoxical because it reflects this dual perspective on human existence and our journey toward self-knowledge as essentially a dance or the swing of a pendulum between the polarities of body and spirit, fleeting and eternal, mundane and sacred.

As long as we are alive, the essential paradox of being an embodied spirit might never fully be resolved. And that’s okay. In yoga we are asked to get comfortable with paradox, and even celebrate it."

👉🏼How do you understand and experience balance in your practice? What do you recognize as your tendencies? What do you do to create balance?

👉🏼How does your practice help you to understand, and even celebrate the fundamental paradox of spiritual life?

WisdomBarrie RismanComment