~.~ The practices of Yoga will help you maintain equanimity in all situations by teaching you to become transparent, able to allow both joy and sorrow to flow through you without destroying your peace of mind ~.~ Sharon Gannon & David Life, 2002
What is equanimity?
The aim of yoga asanas (postures) is to develop the noble quality of equanimity in us. Equanimity refers to maintaining a calm composure with poise, irrespective of what the external situation is. In simple terms, whether we have won a million pound lottery or our business has failed, our inner state remains calm – neither do we become overexcited and leaping with joy and hysterics in the former situation nor are we dejected and dispirited in the latter situation. Of course, we celebrate our win and take positive steps to salvage our business, but do so remaining in the state of equanimity within. Hence, the peace of mind is not disturbed by either external situation.
Achieving such equanimity and balanced mind requires practice as the usual tendency is for emotions to overwhelm us so we lose ourselves in the situation and are not able to see further than that. Instead with a calm mind, various situations can be clearly defined, analysed and solutions worked out.
The balancing asanas at the physical level lead on to cultivate such equanimity in the mind. Whether it is standing on one leg as in tree pose or using the arms to hold your body weight in head stand, strengthening the legs and arms provides a strong foundation for setting up our balancing postures.
Focusing on the legs as the foundation for balancing poses, a New York yoga teacher Nikki Costello recommends setting the intention of creating a firm, grounded base from your feet up into your legs and hips. “The legs hold you up. They take you where you want to go,” Costello says. “When you focus on the legs, you go back to the source of your power and strength.”
Let’s take the example of the tree pose. You come into tree pose by bending your right knee and holding your ankle with the right hand. Turn the knee to the right and place the sole of the right foot high against the inner left thigh. The standing left leg takes the weight of the body. Keep it as straight as possible by lifting the knee cap and activating the quadriceps. Press the right heel strongly into the inner left thigh, thus securing the legs and firming your foundation. Keep the gaze focused on a fixed point a metre or so in front of the left foot. Reach the arms up and open the palms, lengthen the trunk, dropping the shoulders down. Keep the breath flowing.
The longer we can stay in the tree pose balance – without falling over – shows that the mind is becoming quieter, disciplined and calmer; going on to then be in that state of equanimity even when we are not holding tree pose.
Let us practice our balancing postures so that we can always be in a calm and peaceful state of mind as elaborated by Sri Sathya Sai Baba “Let the wave of memory, the storm of desire, the fire of emotion pass through without affecting your equanimity”.