YOGA: The sweet spot

Tying in to my stretcher on Onondaga Lake, circa October 1985.

Tying in to my stretcher on Onondaga Lake, circa October 1985.

You know that feeling you get when everything just jives? It's as if all the planets have aligned and you're grooving with the universe so perfectly ... it's really indescribable. The first time I acknowledged this connection was during a stint on my university's crew team. The sensation of all of us rowers pulling in unison, the silent momentary hang of the oars above the river, the water rippling out underneath the shell ... when all of these came together even just for a few strokes, my teammates and I would share a knowing nod: "Yup~~THAT."

These moments of serendipity can be found on the mat as well. You might think of the time you first took flight in bakasana (crow), or when you nailed your handstand for more than a nanosecond. But have you ever experienced it in a more "routine" posture like tadasana (mountain)? The deep grounding of the right and left sides of the balls of your feet along with the heels ... the lightness of your arches ... the upward lift of energy in the front body (kneecaps, quadriceps, ribcage, chin) ... the corresponding drawing down of the back of the head, shoulder blades and tailbone ... the incremental breadth across your collarbones to make space for your expanding heart ... the deeper inhales filling all the new spaces ... and~~what's that?~~a smile making its way across your lips. Yes, this kind of experience is available to you every time you practice. You just need to be aware of it.

You can even find it during those not-so-favorite postures. When your teacher calls for an asana like utthan pristhasana (lizard), ardha pincha mayurasana (dolphin), or parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle), where do you go? I hope you don't physically leave the studio, but maybe you mentally check out if you find these postures challenging. Instead, next time try finding the place where you can just be. The place where the posture finds your body~~not the reverse. Rather than remind yourself how "uncomfortable" a posture might be, look for the tiny places you can experience a sweetness. The relief in your hamstring after dropping the knee of your extended leg to the earth in lizard. Realizing you've found your breath in dolphin once you've adjusted your forearms slightly. The smart decision to keep your hand on your hip instead of reaching it skyward in revolved triangle, so you can really feel a broader opening across your heart. Yessssss.

Remember: Your practice is yours. The "full expression" of a posture is the one that suits your body, not the model in the yoga textbook or the bendy, bikini'ed Instagram yogi. Recognizing these sweet moments will allow you to appreciate your precious time on the mat~~and the equally important time off it as well.

Where do you find your sweet spots?