First Street Yoga Community News and Blog

coordination makes it happen

After twelve years of working out at the gym, a student recently told me, she can finally use an exercise machine she’s been trying to master. It wasn’t the twelve years of working out, she explained laughing, but the single year of yoga that made the difference. How does yoga do that?

As we struggle to learn the yoga exercises (called asana) we begin to understand that our strengths and weaknesses are so connected they are like flip sides of a single coin. Often, lack of strength is not due to simple weakness (twelve years of working out will improve simple weakness). When we can’t do something that we’ve been trying to master for a long time, it’s usually because something else in us is undermining our efforts. One step up and two steps back.

Muscles in the body are often paired. When one contracts, the other should release to allow movement. One muscle may be very strong but if its antagonist muscle is weak by comparison, the joint will not move well. For healthy movement, coordination trumps brute strength.

The same need for balanced effort is apparent in life as well as in our bodies. For example, an ambitious personality may be good at identifying and moving toward goals but if the skills of focus and determination are not balanced by an equally robust ability to relax and enjoy, they may miss the satisfaction that should come from the achievement.

Yoga asanas are designed to balance the physical body. The equal emphasis on effort and relaxation helps us balance mentally and emotionally as well.

In yoga class, every student may be doing the same asana, but we’re all developing different skills as each individual investigates what they need to be better balanced. Then, almost like magic, the hard things get easier and the easy things get more interesting. You may find yourself wondering why it took so long.

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