I have heard my teacher, a life-long monastic, compare engaging in yoga practice with constructing a house. In both instances, the importance of developing a deep, solid and structurally sound foundation is paramount, as it provides support for everything else. If the foundation is not developed with love, care and attention, the building, or, in this case, the practice, will likely develop problems that may have otherwise been prevented.
While the foundation of a house is created first by excavating the earth and then by pouring concrete, what then forms the foundation of a Yoga practice? Though the answer can vary, I have found that a sustainable Yoga practice is supported by proper movement mechanics, awareness of the breath, and a philosophical orientation that considers the relationship between ease and effort. These three concepts have become the bedrock of my own approach to yoga, and have made my personal practice has become both more rewarding and interesting.
In my experience as a teacher I have seen this approach to practice be of benefit to students of all levels, from those who have never taken a class to those who have been practicing for years, as they develop a finely-tuned awareness for the equilibrium between ease and effort minimizes the strain on the body and nervous system. Students who take the time to explore the essential movement and breathing principles utilized in yoga develop a sound understanding of how to practice safely and with an intuitive, compassionate understanding of their own body’s capacity. These principles facilitate their ongoing practice as they have the freedom to explore yoga safely, both in class and on their own at home.
In more than 20 years of exploring mindful movement and meditation through Yoga and Chi Gong, my appreciation of the the importance of fundamentals continues to increase, as they guide all parts of my practice. I see them supporting every aspect of Yoga, even those that are a bit more subtle and esoteric. Regardless of the yoga pose or breathing technique that I may be exploring, I am learning more about the core principles of yoga, reflecting on how they help to create a sustainable practice that is both nurturing and healing.