I will the title of today's post actually described last night's class. It was a nice class, but I would still not call it effortless. More on that later.
Class was solid, and I felt good throughout. I focused again on breathing and improving form. There may have been some payoff. I didn't go as high in Locust as I have been, but Amy said my legs were much straighter than they have been.
My balance was good, better than usual. I made two full sides in Standing Bow without falling. I started concentrating harder on bringing my body down even further in Balancing Stick. It makes the pose more fun, but alot harder to hold balance and composure.
Camel felt good, as usual, and Rabbit again threw me off. I get a really nice stretch in my lower back in Rabbit, and it feels like I'm doing it right. Then I basically have trouble breathing and get impatient with holding the pose, so I tend to come out early. I may be pushing it too hard.
That brings us to the Day 145 mediation. The yoga sutras say: "Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached." Gates takes this as a call for us to not push ourselves quite so hard. I'm all in favor of this idea, and I think its a caution that Bikram practitioners can especially use. Bikram seems to attract people with a tendency to overdo it.
It's easy to see how this caution relates to several of the yamas and niyamas. Non-harming: overdoing it tends toward injury. Non-lying: overdoing it stems from a false estimation of our capabilities. Moderation: this one is pretty obvious. Contentment: overdoing things can come from judging ourselves to be inadequate. And I could go on.
But since the idea already seems so well covered, it makes me wonder why there is a sutra devoted to it as it relates to asana practice. I wonder even more, since there are only three sutras that do relate to asanas. Even though I agree with what Gates says about not trying too hard, I think that this sutra may be addressing something different.
When it discusses effort that becomes effortless, it makes me think of what it takes to become a virtuoso at anything. I'll use the piano as my example, but I think the same idea applies to all sorts of physical activity. Classical pianists practice endlessly. The practice can be really hard work. The years of training involve levels of effort and concentration that are almost unimaginable to me. But the end product, when its right, is completely effortless. The performance itself, when its going well, comes to the virtuoso pianist as naturally as breathing. The ultimate pay-off for all the practice, concentration, and work is to arrive at a performance which is entirely natural, free, and effortless.
I think the sutra here may be getting at something similar with asana practice. At least, that makes more sense to me. Thus, I think the sutras point to an ultimate goal of giving full effort and yet having the posture feel effortless. And that takes more than simply not trying so hard. It takes a mastery similar to that of a virtuoso in any activity.