New intention for 2011

Photo: three yogis in kneeling repose
Cornerstone of a yoga practice

Last year, I went negative: “Don’t work so hard, Mike!” was a mantra that had the edge of a warning, a borderline threat  that I should ratchet down intensity and effort to more manageable levels and I might accomplish more. Remind every time I step on the mate that  I don’t have to be the alpha male in the class. The reminder served me well.

This year’s intention follows through on last year’s mandate, but in a more traditional mode: “Grace, ease and balance.” I’ve noticed that many skilled practitioners don’t expend huge amounts of energy in getting into difficult postures. It all falls into place without elaborate preps, without massive buildup of musculature.

As a lumbering male, muscle-bound, goal-oriented, crowd-conscious (“What will the rest of the class think we I try to kick into handstand and fall on my face?”) mature beginner, I want to apply some of that grace, ease and balance. What’s the easy, understated way of entering a pose? How can I gracefully flow through my postures?

And balance is a whole monster issue because I’ve been renegotiating terms of engagement with my hips and it’s had a dramatic relapse in terms of the balancing poses I can do. Even simple ones like Tree or Warrior III. When I started out, I had bad balance. After about four years, practice had made me look better, but I had not changed some underlying structural problems. Then the knee issue happened and I stopped yoga for three months, and it’s never been the same since.