Posts by: krista hanson
The focus of my practice in yoga right now is finding the balance between softening and striving. As a person who has done well to embody our culture’s values of doing, achieving, and working hard all the time, in my yoga practice (and my life) I have to consciously focus on the not-doing and not-achieving to find balance. Which makes navasana (boat pose) a particular challenge for me. Unlike tadasana or down dog or many other yoga asanas, it’s a serious challenge for me to find softness and full acceptance of my body – exactly as it is – while doing navasana.
Boat pose is a fairly unique posture in yoga because, unlike almost all the others we do regularly, in navasana we can see most of our exterior bodies. In forward folds, back bends, balances, and twists, we’re usually either looking out beyond our bodies, or at the ground, or maybe down at our shins in forward folds. But in navasana, I find myself peering out at my toes, and then inevitably my eyes drift down a little to take inventory of my pose. I look to see how high I’ve brought my legs (compared to yesterday or compared to the student across the room from me or compared to Mr. Iyengar), and how straight they are, and how much I’m trembling. And I try to remind myself that it’s not about accomplishment, but then my legs start really shaking and I wish I were better at this pose.
And navasana really can bring out the achiever in all of us, since our boats can vary so dramatically. Some of us look graceful like the models in the yoga magazines, with bright, tight legs up in the air – I like to imagine these are the fancy yachts of navasana. But for a lot of us, the more appropriate boat for the occasion – for our body on this day – might have our knees bent, our shins parallel to the floor, maybe even our palms wrapped gently around the back of the thighs to help lighten our opening heart and chest. It can feel like a much lower navasana status – like we’re relegated to the rowboat instead of the race boat.
But of course this is where yoga practice comes alive. If I can let go of hierarchy and remember to practice ahimsa – non-harming, including non-harming of my own body – then my yoga practice feels real. This is the gift of navasana. It reminds me that the pose is simply a teacher, and that the true practice is finding both strength and softness deep in my core and in my heart and in my mind, the places my wandering eyes cannot see.
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