Asana Column: Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II)
The third choice, balanced between these two extremes, is to yield to gravity. When we yield our body weight—when we trust the Earth to support us—an upward rebounding action effortlessly lifts us away from the Earth. Our muscles come into a balanced tone, neither too gripped nor too released, and our breath centers itself in the middle of the body. Gravity becomes our friend, not our foe, and we feel in harmony with ourselves. We make the necessary effort, provide the necessary work to maintain the body's integrity, and then we let something beyond what we know and control happen to us. We trust that life will support us.
Tadasana: Exploring Your Relationship with Gravity
Take a moment to feel these three relationships to the ground. Stand with your feet hip-width apart in Tadasana, and allow your body to collapse downward in a posture of submission or dejection. This stance is how many of us started our yoga practice. Notice your breathing in this state of collapse. Can you fill your lungs, or do they feel hemmed in and compressed?
Once you're familiar with this state of collapse, shift to the state of propping. Engage what I call the push and push pattern: Push down hard through your feet, and keep on pushing. Gather all your muscles, and drive your spine and head upward. Now notice how your breathing has changed. Has it become shallow and moved high up into your chest?
Next, let's explore the possibility of neither giving up nor struggling, but of gracefully yielding. Instead of pushing the Earth away, slowly release the hardness in your abdomen and allow the weight of your lower body to pour down into the Earth. Imagine your weight streaming down through your legs like sand in an hourglass. As you give your weight to the ground, the soles of your feet will immediately soften and broaden, and your breathing will spontaneously deepen and relax.
Once you truly give your weight to the Earth, something magical happens. As you yield to gravity, the release rebounds upward in an effortless flow that moves into your torso, lengthening your spine and head toward the sky.
If you don't feel this rebounding flow of force, you may be yielding too much and returning to a state of collapse. Try starting again from a strongly propped position and then slowly allow yourself to release your weight into the Earth. Gauge the level of muscle tone you must use to maintain the integrity of your skeletal structure and prevent your bones from collapsing into the spaces of the joints. In active yielding your body becomes a clear conduit for both downward and upward moving forces.
Give half of yourself to the Earth and the other half to the sky. Experiment with shifting your torso forward and back until you find the place where your belly, chest, and head best catch this rebounding flow of force.
Keep shifting between the three relationships with gravity—collapse, prop, and yield—until you can easily identify them. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with how each relationship feels—not only the physical sensations, but also the emotions each relationship evokes.