I practiced yoga for three years, and taught at least 100 yoga classes, before I learned that yoga is both science and art. In the early years of my practice (and my teaching), I thought yoga was about learning the “right” way to strike a pose, so that I might someday practice pose perfectly. This approach led to a lot of self-judgement, as there was always someone in class who was stronger, more flexible, or more accomplished, in every class that I took.
It was such a relief when I learned that there is no such thing as perfect in yoga! That yoga is as much art as it is science, and striking the perfect pose is not the point at all. This realization helped me let go of self-judgement, and finally embrace the yin and yang of yoga–the back and forth dance between science and art–and striving and surrendering–that helps us reveal our innate joy.
With this in mind, I wanted to share a little about how we can use the art and science of yoga poses (asanas), to grow stronger, quiet our minds, and soothe our spirits, all at once.
Every asana contains elements of art and science. The beauty of each asana is most accessible by exploring opportunities for grounding and liberating within each movement. This may sound confusing to those who are new to the practice, so just hang with me a minute, and give it a try when you feel ready.
Using Warrior 1 pose (Virabhadrasana) as an example, begin with the science of setting up the pose, to create space within the body. First, bend the front knee toward a 90 degree angle, making sure the knee does not come forward of the ankle. Reach the back leg toward the back of the mat, extending the outside of the back foot toward the floor. Imagine that the extension begins at the hips and moves all the way down the outside of the leg to the outside of the foot. This strong, solid leg positioning is the foundation for Warrior 1.
As we reach the lower half of the body toward the floor for stability, we allow the upper body to be light and airy, like a dancer. We lift up through the ribs, and extend long through the arms, and reach through the hands, all the way to the finger tips. Let the fingers be light and the arms be fluid, finding more and more space for extension with every breath.
This contrast of science (grounding) and art (liberating) creates stability, while also allowing for growth and progress within the practice.
Play with the dance of science and art of yoga in Warrior 1 this weekend, and remember it as you visit other poses in your practice. Notice how the principles of grounding and liberating can serve us in other poses, such as Tree Pose, Down Dog, and Chair Pose. It’s a metaphor for life…the more we integrate art and science on the mat, the more balanced we feel in the other areas of our lives.
Have a beautiful weekend!