First comes stability
Updated: Nov 4, 2020
There are different important elements in Yoga Practice and the crucial one is stability. Without Stability, in our foundation, we can not extend further in our knowledge in our development, the same is in Yoga posture - the first thing we do is to establish the base of our posture. There are a few things you need to consider in order to have a stable foundation.
First we need to understand well why it is so important?
Imagine a tree which does not have strong roots. What will happen when the first wind will come? It will fall, obvious, isn’t? However, we tend to forget about our base and go deeply into the posture. A very good example is Parivritta Trikonosana (revolved triangle), in the attempt to twist more we tend to lift our back hill or twist our knee and ankle so much that we lose balance. We bring our weight too far over the front leg and lose stability, then we have to spend lots of energy and efforts to maintain this disbalance. Our mind will be totally focused on maintaining stability because of incorrect alignment. Since our bodies are very different the correct alignment is very different for every person, the correct is the one which provides the most stable foundation. I am against the classical approach of the exact toe to hill alignment and this is what I learned during Yoga Therapy study. Every person should understand the principals of safe practice and one of them is stability. From the psychological point of view, the habit of finding stability will become a general habit in day to day life. Physical stability will trigger the sense of internal stability and confidence, since our psychological and physical states are very much connected.
Let’s break down what makes the posture stable? There are several moments which one can take into mind:
1. Establish a good connection between the root and the ground.
If it is a sitting posture the roots are in the sitting bones and legs in the point of pressure with the ground. If it is standing posture the roots are in feet, toes and hills. If it is a reversal posture it will be palms, fingers, shoulders and elbows. If it is lying posture it will be the surface of the body which touches the floor. It is very important to root yourself into the surface which has a connection with the ground and keep it during all the practice, keep pressing these points during all period while you maintain the posture.
2. Make the base stable as possible.
How to do it? As a general rule: the more the surface between the point of contact with the ground the better the stability, which means that you can improve stability by changing the angle of the foot or what is your foundation. For example, if you increase the angle between the foot and the imaginary line which comes from the front foot in Utthita Trikonasana the base will be much more stable. Or if you avoid placing the back foot too far behind the imaginary line. Basically, to make the base stable you need to adjust the position of foot and leg (or arms and elbows in reversal posture) in such way which will make the base geometrically more stable.
3. Organic alignment of joints.
When you place your feet and legs in the most stable position be careful to maintain the most organic relationship between joints. For example, ankle, knee and hip joint should not be twisted between each other. If in the previous example of Utthita Trikonasana you put the back foot more than 45 degrees with the imaginary line it could place the knee in a strain for some people who do not have very open hips. If the person is very flexible it should not be more than 60 degrees either because it could create overstretch in the sacral joints and hip. Stability of the base should be always reviewed in connection with the organic alignment of joints. One can check it by sensing if his joints feel good in this alignment. We never compromise stability to the safety of joint.
4. Active Engagement of muscles.
Any stable base requires the strong foundation material, strong like a concrete. In the context of a body, we make the foundation solid and firm by engaging the muscles. For example, in Warrior posture legs are actively engaged, in the child posture we keep arms strongly engaged and keep rooting in the palms. Basically, the rule is to find the roots and root deeper
5. Distribution of weight is important.
If it is a standing posture distribution of weight equally between two legs. This could be achieved by engaging both legs. For example, in the Anjaney asana (Crescent moon), or Ashwa Sanchalanasana (low lunge) the back leg is fully engaged, the back glutes are fully engaged. If it is standing twist when we lean our body toward one of the legs and twist then it is important to strengthen back leg even more and slightly shift the weight to the back. At the same time avoid leaning too much out of the front leg or in other word outside the foundation on one side only. If it is a balancing posture always aware of the primary weight and balancing weight of the body are equally distributed. We will go again in our class through this.
6. Distribute the wait across all the foundation.
So if it is downfacing dog then distributes the weight across all palm and fingers, opening the finds widely. Avoid keeping the weight only at the base of the palm which is not good for the wrist joints.
7. Strengthen the arches of the feet and of palm or maintain Padabandha
Even though you distribute the weight across all surface of the foot or palm which touches the floor the arch of the feet and palms should be off the ground. You need to cultivate it and even exaggerate it because it will improve the foundation strength and possibility to expand. By pressing the edges of the foot and palms you can lift the arch even more and from this pada bandha will start the extension and stretch of all body.
8. Mula Bandha.
Last but not least is the fundamental for Himalayan Hatha Yoga and especially for grounding in the posture is the root lock. It has many-many purposes and one of them is to feel grounded and stable. I will cover it in a special article dedicated totally to Mula Bandha.