Friday, January 16, 2009

Effort and Surrender

"Effort and surrender are like two wings of a bird. Both are necessary for a smooth and joyful flight." - John Friend (founder of Anusara yoga)

For many people the idea of effort is easy to accept. “No pain, no gain” is a familiar motto. But too much effort is like a horse with blinders. You cannot see what is around you. You are not open to possibilities. A bird has to make an effort to fly south for the winter. But if it did not surrender and use the power of the wind it would never make it. When paddling in white water, there is an effort and a vision to get to the bottom of the difficult rapid. But the paddler needs to surrender to the power of the water, see where the current is flowing and find the line that uses the energy of the water to make it safely to the bottom.

Surrender is often defined as giving up completely to the power of another. But in yoga we look at a “sweet” surrender. It is more of a softening to the moment, a release of tension, a belief in the idea that we are truly supported and cared for, an acceptance and love of our inner being. We can’t fly without surrender. Effort without softening is over-effort. We need to accept that we cannot control everything. There are things beyond our knowledge and control. If we dance and play with the Universe there is harmony. If we fail to surrender there is discord or conflict.

"Don't be attached to doing the poses - be attached to feeling good." Desiree Rumbaugh (internationally known Anusara teacher)

When effort and surrender combine the result is pure ecstasy. If we approach our yoga with a playful attitude the balance of effort and surrender becomes easier. The ego may want to perform a particular pose but the body or mind may not be ready. If we try to force the pose with our will, we may cause injury. It is easy to cling to physical ideals, but our bodies are all different. Even the way the bones are set in the socket can make a pose easy or impossible for us. So instead of forcing your way into a pose, ease and explore your way into it with gentleness and compassion supported with a strong foundation of energy and desire.

"The face should be relaxed and the eyes soft in every pose. Advanced practitioners will express more of the state of surrender and freedom than effort, while beginners will need to focus more on effort and discipline. Effort without a sense of surrender can lead to violent and constrictive action and therefore to injury." B.K.S. Iyengar (great yoga master)

Hatha yoga is the physical practice of asana (poses). The word “hatha” means sun and moon together and the word yoga means “union”. The opposites complement and complete each other. Use the inspiration of the brightness of the sun and the softness of the moon to move into and out of your poses.

Working from your center gives your pose its power. Playing the edges helps to rediscover your center. Yoga is dynamic. It pulses with the breath and with the beat of nature. There is always a new discovery, an awakening if you remain open to it. Bring this energy and attitude into your life and feel your life blossom.

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