If the yoga “asana” (a.k.a. poses) exist to facilitate one’s ability to sit in meditation, why are they so extreme? Right? Will I have my foot behind my head while I am meditating? Good question. I bet that if you ever took the time to ask yourself that your answer was something like, “Of course NOT!!!" or maybe it was "Already nailed IT!” and you might have even thought after that, “I don’t need yoga.”
First of all, I want to confirm for you that you don’t need yoga (in the popular understanding of the word). It’s like coaching, you don’t need coaching. Coaching and yoga both give you things that can be really fantastic, change your life completely, give your life a new sense of meaning, and deepen your connection to your soul and things greater than yourself, but you don’t need them.
And if you DO meditate and you have your little meditation pillow and you feel fine sitting on it for the duration of your meditation, then you might feel that the extent of your yoga needs is to release your hips, hamstrings and maybe your shoulders (just cuz everyone could probably benefit from releasing their shoulders).
So why “Pretzel-asana”- as I like to call it.
In the picture, you see B.K.S. Iyengar doing a classic pretzel-asana. If you have studied with him or in one of his schools you may hear a different explanation for these kinds of poses.
I studied in San Francisco at a school that brought teachers from many different backgrounds to provide a “balanced” foundation for the aspiring teacher, so they could explore what was most compelling to them once they had a sense of what was out there.
But I was in San Francisco and this was over the past few years, and you might have heard about what is happening in San Francisco these days. San Francisco Bay Area is home to two of the three most dense built-up urban areas in the US- SF has 6,266 residents per square mile. Only LA is denser. NY, with its urban trails and parks ends up at 5,319 per square foot. Also, industry is exploding in the greater bay area and, to put it simply, people are everywhere. It is incredibly stimulating in ways that can be exciting and challenging and ways that can be stressful.
So what do you do when you sit down to meditate and your head is doing a spin like the Tasmanian Devil, and you feel like you practically had to mow down 15 people just to get to your front door? Focus- Breathe- let your thoughts float by like clouds-easy for you to say!
“My mind is completely tied in knots. I CAN’T FOCUS!”
When it comes to meditation complexity is not necessarily a good thing.
One way to untie so many knots in the mind is to practice pretzel asana. These poses require patience, attention, focus, and compassion for oneself.
The lesson is there in your flesh and bones.
When you ask your body, “How will we get the foot behind the head?” The answer is, “breathe, allow, trust that you are where you need to be, be okay without the goal.”
Practice pretzel asana, whether you create a picture where you look like Mr. Iyengar or not, and the knots in your mind get looser; sometimes they come completely untied. A complex pose for a complex experience will bring you back to simplicity.
Do you do yoga? Do you meditate? If so, why do you do it? What does it help with? Let me know in the comments section below.