Being present is an essential part of yoga. This doesn’t mean just physically following the movements during class, but to really be in tune with what is going on in your body and mind. To be completely present on your mat during yoga practice can be very challenging – trying to stay focused on the practice, breath, recognizing emotions, and physical sensations without interruptions from our busy minds is a feat in itself. I find that when I practice balance poses, though they are more physically challenging, they actually force me to be in the moment and help me focus and truly be present. Balance poses require even breathing, steadiness, grounding, and concentration. They also require recruitment of deep stabilizing muscles that we might not be using in daily activities, and this may very beneficial for injury prevention.
One of my favourite yoga poses is “standing knee to chest” and it’s variations. It sounds simple – stand with your feet hip distance apart, and slowly bring your right knee towards your chest keeping the pelvis level and hold – maintain a tall neutral spine. However, holding this position on one leg for several breaths be very hard!
Variations can be:
-closing the eyes
-straightening the right leg out in front of you
-straightening the right leg out and moving the leg across the body as far left and as high as you can, turn the head away from the leg to increase the difficulty even more
-holding the big toe with the right hand and kicking it out as far right and as high as you can
Interestingly, a recent study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy suggests that a having difficulty transitioning from double leg stance to single leg stance (as above knee to chest pose) may be a useful predictor of increased risk of lower extremity injury (such as an ankle or knee sprain).
Next time you practice, maybe you will notice that during balance poses you are more present.