by Barrie Risman
Ahh, Sunday. I enjoy teaching my Sunday morning classes at the studio. Even though I am working, it feels like a morning “off” in many ways. Sherbrooke Street is quiet when I arrive at 7:45am, in contrast to the noise and traffic during the weekdays. Since the parking meters don’t run on Sunday I can pull up right in front of the studio. It’s easy. The energy inside the studio is also tranquil. It feels different then the weekday classes. And, this is how it should be.
Sunday (hopefully, for most of us, at least some of the time) is a rest day. When periods of rest and activity in our lives are well balanced with each other, it helps us to feel whole and balanced within ourselves.
My students come to yoga on Sunday morning to balance out their working week, which often places them in their minds, with yoga. Yoga class is the opportunity to be in their bodies, with their breath, and for them to connect with a deeper awareness of self beneath the surface of the mind. This is one way yoga balances us. Yoga cultivates a feeling of wholeness, the sense that all parts of us are being nurtured.
In the asana practice itself, we are also always seeking to create the balance, as Patanjali wrote in Yoga Sutra 2.47, between sthira and sukha: steadiness and ease. Recently, I was practicing Sirsasana 1 (Headstand). After a few minutes of working to balance the actions of the pose, everything suddenly clicked into place. The effort felt effortless. The asana felt completely stable yet somehow easy in a way I had not experienced before. All the parts of myself were working together to bring my body into the place where steadiness and ease found their perfect balance. As I held the pose and adjusted to the tiny fluctuations needed to hold my balance, I savoured this experience of the deeper steadiness of spirit that had opened up. It felt all-encompassing, unwavering and powerful.
Like in the postures, balance is not a static, one-time thing that is created and then lasts. It is an ever-changing relationship between two forces. Critical to creating balance is the ability to listen to ourselves. Hearing (and listening to) the messages of our body, mind, and spirit about what is needed to create balance, we are able to make choices that bring ourselves back to equilibrium, and return us to a state of wholeness. This is another way yoga serves us. As we practice, we learn how to listen to ourselves, to our intuition and to the inner calling toward wholeness and equilibrium. And, then, it’s up to us to choose how we respond.