Near the end of 2018, I immersed in an intensive with one of my first teachers who I hadn’t studied with in some twenty-five years…
The first day of the training, he had us practicing one pose — Samasthiti. Samasthiti is a standing pose. “Sama” means equal, balanced, “sthiti” means “stand.” Just stand, upright, and balanced, on two feet, side by side, arms straight to your sides, allowing the soles of your feet to root down into the floor while yearning the crown of your head up. In other words, stand up straight. No back bend. No hunching. Just straight. The inner gaze is on the prank, your breath moving along your spine. The outer gaze is either at the tip of the nose or straight ahead.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Try practicing it for two hours. Our teacher had us take breaks, a minute or two here and there whenever he could see the rigidity building. Even to us, we could feel the tension building in the room as we all tried to remain upright with ease, all while maintaining an even turning, sama vriti, breath.
One pose can teach you so much about your body — its strength, where it’s working too hard — its weakness, where it’s not working at all. Your breath, where is it flowing, where is it not flowing? Your mind, is your mind getting hard, is it growing tired? Your spirit, are you sinking or are you lifting? Where is the sama? Where is the balance?
This was practiced inside a church in Santa Monica, where the windows opened up onto a courtyard. Periodically, the sounds of children playing outside, spilled into our space. Their laughter, shouts, pleas, and even a few tears showered around us as moved slowly from one pose to the next, all with the same intentional focus. For some, the children were a distraction. One student tried to close the window but it wouldn’t stay closed, it continually reopened. To me, the children were a reminder of yoga can stir up within us, if we are willing to pay attention. The laughter, shouts, pleas, tears; these emotions are all within us, residue from the past, or presence in the very now. The task is to remain present yet not entirely carried away by these wavering waves. The task is to remain balanced throughout it all. You don’t have to do an “advanced” pose to practice this. You just need to slow down, be present, and listen.