James Sanders Yoga

In love with Warrior III – effort and effortlessness in our yoga

illustration of man in warrior three

For the past several years, I have been a part of a Sutra study group. Once a month we get together either in-person or on Zoom (or both), and one of us presents a sutra from Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s been a wonderfully rewarding group to be a part of. Having a sangha to talk about matters of the spiritual path without holding back is liberating!

Last week, our group discussed sutra 2.47 which can be read as:

“Perfection in an Asana is achieved when the effortful effort to perform it becomes effortless, and the infinite being within is reached”

BKS Iyengar

Of course, going from a really old manuscript in Sanskrit to modern English leaves a bit of room for interpretation, but I really appreciate Iyengar’s take on this one. It’s not often that a sutra is so closely tied to asana.

Effortful effort becomes effortless… wow.

When I heard his quote, I started to wonder what this could look like? Balance, fire, focus, and calmness all came to mind almost immediately, and the pose that exemplified these qualities: virabhadrasana 3 (aka Warrior 3).

Warrior 3 is a standing balance pose. We stand on one leg, the other leg extends out behind us. Spine parallel to floor and arms reaching forward. It’s not easy to hold! Lots of strength is needed for sure, but there is also the steady mind required to balance and ability to stay fluid as we sway and shake a little. When you hit your sweet spot in this pose there is a fine balance of effort and effortlessness.

I realized that in the pandemic years, I had found great refuge in yoga as a Restorative practice. Poses which felt safe and meditative came to dominate my practice. My online sangha became a social lifeline. Yoga kept me from worrying too much about what possible awful thing may be down the road and kept me grounded and present for myself and my family.

Now, I feel the need to bring more fire into my practice. So, if you are one of my lucky students, you get to be a part of bringing the fire. Many of my classes have people who are new to yoga, are coming back to yoga after a time away, or are older and feel not so ready for a fire filled practice. No worries, we’ll build the fire slowly. My intention is to revisit warrior 3 with varying degrees of support from props over the coming months so we can all feel the progress towards a pose that so wonderfully expresses the best of yoga asana.

a painting of Pantanjali

A painting of Patanjali. We can talk about the snakey bit another time.

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