Yoga offers me the ability to use asana to create my own balance.  On a physical level, asana balances us by adding strength and/or flexibility where we need it.  The same pose for you may be building your flexibility, while for me, it builds stamina.  Asana is great cross-training for athletes of all stripes, runners, bikers, lifters, etc.   On an energetic level, the right asanas can energize or calm you, as needed.  Specifically, I recommend sun salutations and arm balances to energize yourself when you’re tired or feeling weighty, and hip openers and forward folds to calm down when you’re feeling anxious or overactive.

Asana can and should encourage the development of attributes we’re seeking, such as patience, steadiness, or courage, by challenging us in the way we need it most.  (We’ll not even get started today on how yoga philosophy challenges our thoughts and beliefs, asks us to consider more deeply how we see the world and why, and asks us to understand how we interact with each other and why.)

I believe it is best to consistently practice in a way that cultivates what you want/need, not necessarily what you enjoy the most or what you’re first drawn to.  For example, if you are a fiery, driven person, maybe you don’t need to take a two hour heated power flow class four times a week (even though I’ll bet you want to).  As a fiery person myself, I can attest that powerful, fast moving classes are some of my favorites and were a large part of what drew me to yoga initially.  But they can also be irritating, agitating, and can encourage excesses I already have (such as powering through something because my ego wants to, for example).  These classes don’t bring balance into my life.  Instead, practicing in a more quiet, internal, philosophical way, moving in a steady, even pace, and approaching difficult poses with patience brings me balance.

I will never forget an exercise we did in teacher training, in which we partnered up, journaled about what we were working to cultivate in our lives, then observed the other’s practice.  I had journaled privately about how I sought more steadiness.  After my partner observed my practice, the first thing he’d said was how steady and even I’d looked as I practiced, and afterward.  After I got over my surprise and suspicion that my friend had read my journal entry, I felt deeply satisfied and appreciative of what the practice had given me.

As a teacher, how do I encourage yogis to find what balances each of us?  In a class with many students, all unique, that seems a bit perplexing.  I’ll keep pondering; for now, I can certainly share the benefits I’ve received in choosing asana that complements my nature, and invite everyone to set their individual intentions for what they seek.  And I will continue to offer a range of poses and approaches, as broad an experience and as many varied poses as my beginner students can handle; to offer even a taste of how deep and rich the well is.