Many times, during a hatha yoga session, we tell you to compromise the posture, but not the breath. Sometimes practitioners wonder about this. If you compromise the posture, what is the point? It is an interesting question. Because it goes to the heart of the practice, which is not to “perfect” the body but to employ the body in bringing the mind to a state of equilibrium, where it is not beset by ‘modifications’. And the breath is the most important element in this pursuit. Steady breath, steady mind. Posture serves breath. Not the other way round.
To understand this better, here’s a little parable. A man feels cold while sleeping at night. He buys a blanket. It is vibrant and intricately designed with floral patterns. He is about to spread it over himself that night but resists. He opens it up gingerly and lays it atop him, as though it were a sheet of gold. His hands and feet stick out from under the sheet, exposed to the cold. “Why haven’t you covered yourself?” his wife asks. “The sheet is so beautiful, I don’t want to wrinkle it,” the man grins. “Is the sheet serving you or are you serving the sheet?” the woman asks.
It is the same with postures. When you subject your body to unnatural pain or discomfort, you are serving the posture and compromising on your breath. Instead, make the posture work for you. Compromise it a bit. Wrinkle it a bit. And let your breath stay consistent. Making the shift from serving things to making them serve us is something that does not always come naturally to some of us. Because it requires courage and confidence, however small. Let us change that. On the mat. Posture by posture.