Healthy Practice: Balancing Freedom and Restraint in Yoga
The work of legendary furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames has been described as a balance of freedom and restraint. Mr. Eames was once asked: “Have you ever been forced to accept compromises?” He responded: “I don’t remember ever being forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints.” (1)
Practicing yoga also involves working within constraints, those of the general form of the human body and also our personal limitations. Yoga balances freedom and restraint.
Knowledge of the body shows us where to expand and where to restrict movement. It also allows us to design a practice to fit our individual needs. That’s why working with a modified version of a particular pose is not a compromise; rather, it’s accepting constraints. I don’t abandon a beneficial asana simply because it’s difficult. Instead, I use awareness of my limitations as a guide for determining how to work in the pose.
For example, if I’m working toward Padmasana (Lotus Pose), I apply biomechanics and physiological reflex arcs to gain freedom of movement in the hips while at the same time using the muscular stabilizers and my hands to ensure congruency of the knee as a hinge. This is an example of balancing freedom with restraint. Since we also benefit from preparing the body for a pose, the journey itself becomes the reward.
Always, in your particular case, consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. Always practice yoga under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor. See full disclaimer here.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Bandha.
Author Ray Long MD, FRCSC is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.
3d Graphic Designer / Illustrator Chris Macivor has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years. He is a graduate of Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sheridan College and Seneca College. Chris considers himself to be equally artistic and technical in nature. As such, his work has spanned many genres from film and television to video games and underwater imagery.
1. De Pree, Hugh. Business as Usual. Zeeland (MI): Herman Miller; 1986.