It is not uncommon for us to go through our days, weeks, and lives on autopilot. Many of the ways in which we survive as humans require that we operate in such a fashion. We do not consciously breathe or blink. We expend no conscious energy on beating our own hearts, getting hungry, or battling illness. We simply go through the motions as we are born with them, as we learn them, and as we become habitual about them.
This was precisely how I approached my yoga practice, years ago, before someone presented to me a subtle but profound cue along my teacher training journey. (And you know they call yoga a practice for a reason, right?)
Tadasana. Mountain pose. Stillness. Grounded. Effortless. Two feet on the ground, standing upright. Out of that simple gesture, we create a vertical channel for energy to rise. Our legs and pelvis distribute and carry weight, our spine is natural and erect, our ribs brace while our shoulders open and we face forward. We are firm and strong, but gentle and relaxed all at once.
Our effort and attention begins in our feet – we stand. We exert weight and pressure on the floor or earth beneath us and we rise up from it. What we don't consider in our quiet "me-ness" is the pressure or force being exerted back to us. There is an energy that keeps us upright, perpendicular to the Earth's surface. There is a reason gravity doesn't make a puddle of us. If that didn't exist – that push back, and the ground from which we rise – we would crumble into loose matter; disintegrate into space with the rest of the earth. That resistance is just as valuable as our mass and the pressure maintaining it. With both, we are existing within one of the finest balancing acts.
"Gravity is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass are brought toward one another." Wikipedia, on Gravity
The same is true with every pose (even savasana / corpse pose) and every connection that we make with the ground, including each conscious or unconscious step. The more you give into this magic, the more you can receive.
For someone with "trust issues", this perspective shift and new realization of give and take really changed how I practice, step and communicate with gravity. Releasing and really giving into the support of ground, reverberated back to me a new strength and energy. A simultaneous push away and lift, generated by solid connection.
"Oh gravity, stay the hell away from me." John Mayer, Gravity
I had gone through my whole practice and life with this idea that I wanted to be lighter and freer. That if somehow I could lighten my load or lean on things, I could achieve weightlessness – that by simply being lighter I could lift off into headstand or brilliance with all the grace and effortlessness that could ever be afforded to me.
In fact, the truth could not be more the opposite. The more that I surrender, the more that I allow my base and structure to succumb to the connection that I make with the ground through the pull of gravity, the more free I become! I find that the heavier I am, the more I allow my mass and weight to sink, the more energy, space and lightness I can create out from the roots I am planting. I am granted more space to shift, rebound, spring, stretch and play; just me and gravity, simultaneously coalescing and blooming.
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing." Stephen Hawking
You can try it yourself in a pose as simple as tree pose: standing on one foot with the bottom of your other foot against the inside of your standing leg's calf, and your palms together at heart center. Focus less on balancing and not falling, and more simply on grounding, shifting weight down into the ground. Ground yourself from all four corners of your foot and rise up out of the rebounded energy and strength you feel. It's all in the give and take.
Photos are my own. Please do not use or reproduce without my written permission.