Akhanda Yoga Teacher Chétana Jessica Torrens in Boat Pose

Exploring Effortless Effort

I love this pose – Bound Boat! By using my hands on my ankles, I get the leverage I need to lift the lower back, lengthen the spine and lift the sternum and the heart centre. When I allow myself to do this, the transverse abdomus (an important part of the core) comes on with a subtle engagement below the navel. Everything lines up and I’m balancing on the centre of my sitting bones. With this balance and support, I feel that I’m weightless. I could hold the pose for a long while without tiring. In short, I blossom; I am at ease; I am just there!

Notice if you think of this kind of pose as ‘a slacker pose’, ‘cheating’ or ‘taking the easy way out’. If this pose allows for great alignment and the right muscles to come on line, why would we think this? Simple – we’re efforting junkies. We’ve been trained to think that nothing comes without great effort. Vishva-ji often talks about the true nature being playful, expandable, joyful and fearless. I know people love it when he uses these phrases – I think we’re so ready to welcome more ease.

In our June retreats, we will be exploring the theme of Effortless Effort. I often talk about the balance of effort and surrender, discipline and freedom as we see them indicated by Patanjali in Sutra II:i: The practice of yoga is tapas (discipline), svadhyaya (self study) and Ishwara pranidhan (surrender to the Divine or reverence). In modern life, it seems to me that we are always effecting. And Yoga becomes a self improvement project. But what of the Upanishadic and Tantric contemplations Aham Brahman Asmi (I am the Vast). We already are part of the fabric of the Whole, at our core, we are ease. So, to make sure that we’re not over efforting, stuck in struggle (even on our spiritual path), the indication ‘effortless effort’.

I’d encourage this by noticing where we can apply the small effort needed to stay present to the moment, postures that allow us to find balance and ease, and find places of effortless effort in life. Be slightly skeptical of thoughts that come telling you – ‘hey, shouldn’t this require more effort?’, ‘meditation should suck and it will take me more years that the leaves on a tree to become enlightened’. It’s actually not true — you’re only one deep breath away from a small moment of peace, and then another (Ham-So).

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