Many yoga disciplines look effective because they shape our abdominals, our arms, but the fact we actually see “6 pack abs” does it really mean we are doing well?
The first answer from a Yogi perspective would be this one. You need to be flexible in order to be strong, it is the alternation of passive and active stretch exercises, typical in Yoga, that will allow you to work on strength and flexibility at the same time.
For example, in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga this technique is more specifically called Active Stretching, when a muscle contracts, it’s antagonist releases.
Here we go again, we come back on as Patanjali says on balancing the opposites. As you know, the Indian Culture is full of myths and legends (pretty similar to our Greek and Latin mythology) which brings values from the ancient time till now. Also, this important concept of non dualism and harmony comes from there.
A long time ago, Lord Shiva was with his wife Uma (you can also call her Parvati, Durga, or Kali, many names but it is always her) in a remote jungle, they chose this place to make sure no one could hear his share his divine secrets.
As soon as he pronounced the last few words, they heard a noise of something moving in the bushes. It was the thousand-headed serpent of Infinity, Ananta (also called Shesha) who was eavesdropping on them shamelessly. Shiva was furious and as a punishment, sent him to the humans to serve and impart on them what he learned.
Ananda appeared in a more human form, so as not to scare people, half man half snake with the name of Patanjali. Patanjali, the origin of all incarnations within this material world, known as the one Who wrote the Yoga Sutra.
This revolutionary book, is a collection of 196 aphorisms that describes with immense clarity and synthesis all the theory and the practice of yoga.
It offers guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. Contrary to what might be thought, He doesn’t talk about the asanas (postures) at all.
The only two lines which might do that are:
sthira-sukham-āsanam ॥46॥ “the posture need to have the two qualities of firmness and easy and to cultivate both qualities in your body,
tato dvaṅdva-an-abhighātaḥ ॥48॥, “in the asana there is no assault of the opposites”. He learned thus from his dual task as a snake of the infinite when the coils of his tail needed to be strong and soft.
While at the same time letting Lord Vishnu lie on him to rest between the cycles of creations. Here we finally come back to our starting point.
So Patanjali himself, as a perfect Yogi, teach us that the secret is in balancing the opposites, pain and pleasure, desire and contentment, femminine and masculine, passive and active, movement and steadiness.
Does he speak just about the physical? Again, not really.
This is not only related to the body, when we are practicing asanas, also in our mind we need to cultivate a balance between, effort and ease, to gain its full benefit.
But what does this really mean? Steadiness and easiness are in the mind. It means to be grounded in a pure wish that comes from a place of truth.
Truth is the power of pure intention, which makes your being easy and steady. This is what it is all about.
The body's control helps you to keep the mind focused, to step out from the desires that come from the Self, and from the Ego.
It is just so that you'll find that divine space of contentment, compassion, simplicity and calmness. It is the intention behind that matters.
When the mind is calm, the asana is perfect.