Step into the Balance
with Tracey Rich
There's a big difference between hanging in the balance and stepping into the balance. Balancing postures are so often about the goal. Sticking the pose. Many yoga practitioners will do just about anything to achieve that asana, damnit! When we see ourselves in that pursuit, it's almost comical.
Virabadhrasana III, or hero balance, is one of those asanas where all kinds of contortions come into play that leave people hanging. Some versions look like a crumpled can dangling on an overhead wire, while others appear as rigid stick figures looking like they've seen a ghost, grasping at some invisible entity in empty space. What was Ali G famous for saying back in the day? "Check yourself, before you wreck yourself."
The next time you prepare to approach this beautiful balancing pose, check yourself. Although teachers speak about not having goals in asana, this sometimes dangling configuration becomes the end goal for many yogis. Some see this end point as hanging in a T-square, with their torso parallel to the floor, standing upon one leg. But that isn't it!
Start your pose right where you are and stay there, to quote a principle from Ganga in Yoga Beyond Belief.
In other words, start the alignment of hero balance from your first breath while standing in tall mountain. If you connect with the extensional energy and your breath in that moment, you're already connected to essence of the pose. Extensional lines of energy move upward, sourced from the grounding of your feet, and those lines move out through your fingertips and continue towards the ceiling as you step onto your lead foot. Everything flows from this initial engagement. Keep what you started with, breath and the flow of extensional energy. At White Lotus, we teach that balancing is an active, dynamic action, not a rigid static state.
When you first step out onto the heel and then the ball of your lead foot, and extend through the ball of your back foot as it slightly elevates above the floor, you are in the act of balancing--the focus of this pose. It is key that you feel that moment of stepping up into Virabadhrasana III. Also, maintaining the openness and structural integrity of the hip on the standing leg is essential. Please do not compress the space where the hip bone fits into the socket. If you can maintain your initial position of tall mountain, no matter the degree of hinge at your hip, you have stepped into the balance.
There really is no where to go. Stepping into the balance is the meditation of this pose. When you abandon the awareness of the lightness of balancing, you move into the realm of a pose that challenges strength, often at the expense of the wellbeing of your whole body.
*Don't proceed any further into the pose than you can maintain the alignment of tall mountain at every angle.
*Breathe, breathe, breathe--When you concentrate you tend to hold your breath.
*When you hold your breath you tend to contract, thus blocking nerve flow. So again, keep breathing to stay aware.
*Keep the crown of your head actively engaged in the posture, nether looking up which compresses the neck, nor letting your head droop down with gravity.
*Keep your upper arms in line with your ears, and not moving past your head in an effort to get further into the pose.
*Keep the ball of your back foot active in the pose, and the center line of your back thigh facing the ground beneath you.
*Elongate your asana along the front plane of your body.
*Stay aware of the back side of your body also, keeping it both lengthened and expansive.
*Don't see having your torso parallel to the floor as your goal.
* Oh, and breathe!