I recently attended a fabulous yoga retreat at the Crestone Mountain Zen Center led by a wonderful yoga teacher named Charlie Samos. The retreat combined yoga, hiking and Zen meditation. I loved it! There were so many enriching experiences at the retreat, but one of the most memorable was the final yoga class. Charlie challenged each of us to find three things in every posture of the class: (1) the ease of Sukhasana or Seated Pose, (2) the stability of Tadasana or Mountain Pose, and (3) the compassion of Savasna.
It was an interesting exercise and made for a deep and enriching class. Each posture was an exploration of emotion and spirit in addition to the physical asana. It was a wonderful treat and a good lesson in how a physical yoga practice can be expanded and deepened through thoughtful meditation.
I am primarily a Bikram yogi, so Sukhasana or Seated Pose and Tadasana or Mountain Pose were not that familiar to me, but through the week of the retreat I became comfortable with their simplicity and expression. That is not to say I found them easy. Despite their simplicity, I sometimes find these types of postures challenging. Without little details like “turn your foot to this angle” or “extend your hip in this direction” to occupy the mind, it is all about the stillness, and sometimes that is the hardest thing of all.
Back to the retreat’s final class. As we began our practice — the typical Series A Sun Salutations, followed by Warrior I and II, Triangle, and so on — Charlie would remind us to bring ease, stability and compassion to each posture. As we moved through the asanas, our focus was not on the execution of the posture, but on the emotion and feeling that we brought to each pose. It was interesting, because in the postures that came more easily to me, I found myself working to add a deeper measure of stability or ease, while in the more challenging postures, it was compassion for myself that required more concentration.
I thoroughly enjoyed bringing these aspects to bear during my yoga practice, which got me thinking how wonderful it would be to bring ease, stability, and compassion into my daily life as well. To have the presence of mind to stop and think in each moment: Am I bringing ease and joy to this activity? Am I approaching this decision from a place of stability and strength? Do I have compassion for myself if I am struggling? It would be quite challenging, of course, but the rewards would be great. A good first step could be adding this meditative process to my yoga practice more regularly. Then, perhaps, I can begin to bring it into my life.
Readers, do you find ease, stability and compassion in every yoga posture?