Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you practice an asana, your attention is mainly on one part of your body? It’s usually the part that’s the most challenging to move in a particular way. While position is important, if we focus too much on a specific part of the body and ignore the rest, it can make our poses disjointed—and we won’t feel the flow of energy through the body that makes practicing asanas so enlivening. Integration refers to ensuring that each part of the body is involved in creating the pose. It includes integrating the breath as we practice and using our mind to stay focused on what we are doing.
Let me use Triangle Side Stretch as an example to explain what I mean. In this variation of Triangle, the top arm reaches out alongside the ear instead of reaching up toward the sky. This arm position can be challenging if you have tight shoulders. If you’re mainly focusing on the reach of the arm or on bringing the other hand further down your leg, you may forget about other aspects of the poses that are equally important.
Balance is a key factor in all of the Triangle poses. Because of the way the feet are aligned, they must be firmly grounded for you to have a solid foundation for the pose. Pressing the entire surface of the feet down firmly into the earth makes the legs strong and stable. You can feel the energy rising from your feet to your pelvis.
Bending sideways with an exhalation, focus on supporting this movement with your core muscles. You should be able to feel the reach from your back foot to your tailbone and from your tailbone to the top of your head. Pay close attention so you know when to stop bending. If the pose becomes a struggle, you’ll lose that full body integration—from your feet through your core to your head and hands.
You may only be able to bend a little way before your top shoulder starts to drop forward or the pose becomes shaky. Come up a little and hold the pose where you feel it’s strong and the lines of energy are flowing nicely. Breathe evenly and use the breath to sustain you in the pose. If you’re holding unnecessary tension anywhere in your body, perhaps in your shoulders or face, release it. Try to feel ease in the pose. To do this, you’ll need to really tune into your body and become aware of what the pose feels like from the inside out.
When you practice in a way that integrates the entire body, the breath, and the focus of your mind, the poses will feel stronger and more comfortable, though they may not always be easy!
Wishing You Well