At its simplest…any asana is wholesomely built on a balanced connection to the earth. Whatever parts of the body are connected with the earth…evenly distribute the weight throughout that footprint and then reach up and out. This is an accessible basis of alignment rooted in physical and spiritual realities. It also does something interesting…done with ease and spacious focused breathing it will re-balance the structure of the body by strengthening that which needs strength and softening imbalanced patterns of tension. The weight distribution across the seat of the posture (the part of the body which connects to the earth) becomes the limiting factor in how far you take the posture on a given day. In standing postures the energetic work comes with mastery of the foot structure – what lifts up (the arches) and what roots downs (outer edges and heels) and balancing that dynamic.
One posture which demonstrates this in an interesting way is Virabadrasana 1 or Warrior 1. Classically, the back foot is at a 45 degree angle to the front foot. Reaching into the heel and stretching the front knee forward – we then gently adjust the hips to move the left hip forward. Sometime this taught instead with the back heel lifted so the hips can be square like a lunge. The classical version – with the dynamic of rooting through the feet, allows for grounding and upliftment, stability and joy. By lifting the back heel into a lunge like position…the position of the hips squared forward becomes primary, and the connection to the earth secondary. Of course I am clearly biased! An artful student could apply these ideas in a lunge – like Virabhadrasa 1. I do believe that a body is similar to any other physical structure. You wouldn’t build the third floor of a building before you’d built the foundation. But the point is to investigate how you are anchoring your posture – and if that creates equanimity, balance, joy. The word asana refers to a seat or one’s situation in relation to the earth. In this sense these energetics are also connected to the idea of giving and receiving – taking in and releasing – which is reflected in the breath and in our capacity to be spacious and stable as we move through our lives.
It’s worth the experiment to explore Virabhadrasana 1 to learn what stability means to you in a kinesthetic sense. Which approach leads you to feel stable and why? And which version allows you to reach out and expand in a multitude of directions. It’s always good to practice an experiment like this consistently over a chosen period of time. The body will be different every day and life experiences will have an impact on the felt experiences and the actual musculoskeletal alignment on any given day. Big changes in a life can bring deep changes in the body – by investigating with some consistency in practice as we move through life we can develop insight, clarity and understanding.