The Inner Posture

Mar 09, 2022

 

One of the first things I teach students is that the term yoga refers both to a state and to the practices that lead you toward that state.

The idea that the journey is the destination might sound like a new-age platitude, but it’s there right from the beginning of the tradition.

I want people who are new to yoga to understand that yoga isn’t some lofty goal that they'll achieve one day when they finally nail a handstand. 

It’s something that you practice from the minute you roll out the mat out to the final bow of your head at the end of a session.

Yoga includes, and perhaps is characterized by, the mindset that’s cultivated throughout their practice.

What is the yogic mindset, anyway?

One definition of yoga from the Bhagavad Gita defines is evenness of mind. Chapter 2, verse 48 says:

Do thy work in the peace of Yoga and, free from selfish desires, be not moved in success or in failure. Yoga is evenness of mind — a peace that is ever the same.

Translation: Juan Mascaro

Evenness of mind is a state of equanimity, inner balance, and composure, especially under stress. It is the fundamental inner posture of yoga.

Postural practice affords many opportunities to cultivate even-mindedness because we perform positions and movements that challenge, and therefore strengthen, our ability to remain calm when we’re under stress. When we adopt the inner posture of equanimity to meet difficult moments in our practice, we become better equipped to do that in our lives.

For example, each time you use your breath to hold a difficult or awkward posture when you would rather come out you are training your nervous system to remain calm during a stressful situation.

When you notice you’re feeling discouraged after not being able to balance in Tree pose as well as you’d like to, you can consciously let it go and bring your awareness to the present moment. In this way, you are practicing how to deal with feelings of discouragement in other areas of your life too.

If you slow down enough to stay with an uncomfortable stretch, it’s an opportunity to notice unpleasant feelings that might arise like impatience and self-criticism and respond intentionally with perseverance and self-acceptance.

From these examples, and there are so many more, it’s clear that in cultivating equanimity you learn a lot about what gets in the way of experiencing it. In doing so, you also develop many other worthwhile qualities like self-acceptance, patience, letting go, and more.

Over time, you might even find that the inner posture becomes most interesting part of practice because it’s enables you to bring the spirit of yoga to every situation. The inner posture is one you can practice not just on your mat but during the other 23 hours of the day too.  

 

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