Principles of Yoga Practice: Balancing Grace with Power

Drawing on holistic and dualistic perspectives to elevate your yogic potential

Yoga originated long before the dualistic perspective, and monotheism, went global. To understand what yoga can be today and in the future, we need to expand our minds to conceive of a wholeness that surpasses the limitations of dualities to encompass theory/practice, science/art, observable/invisible, physical/mystical, surface/depth, popular/esoteric, discipline/drop-in.

Yoga postures require balance of strength and length in the body, focus and expansive awareness in the mind (me practicing at home in East Village, NYC)

A good middle ground between duality and the all-encompassing Oneness is another principle of traditional Indian knowledge: Lasya, and Tandav. Central to the theory and practice of India’s classical dance forms (which are as old and enlightening as yoga), Laysa is the feminine principle of grace and Tandav the masculine principle of power. A good dancer has a good balance of Laysa and Tandav; an exquisite dancer embodies the indivisible harmony of Lasya and Tandav.

Both elements can describe physical, observable technique. Lasya is the softness of fluid movement, subtleties integral to the dancer’s artistic expression of ancient myths, the legends that come to life and stay alive through our bodies and facial expressions today. Tandav is linearity, the rigor of footwork, the intensity and power shown in levity of leaps and spins and portrayal of gods at war.

Applied to yoga asana, Lasya is the grace of movement fluent with breath, while Tandav is the strength required for clear alignment and clean transitions. For a concrete physical example: a good jump back from forward fold to chaturanga depends on both fluid breath and rooted strength. Only this balance lends sustainability to repetitive actions of vinyasa; the grace and strength prevent overworn, strained muscles and joints, while empowering the body to express inspired breath work.

Backbends depend on strength of the back body and openness of the front body (me practicing at home in East Village, NYC)

Most of us have a natural predilection one way or the other, preferring the softness of laying and stretching, or the intensity of fast, powerful action. Knowing yourself, you have two options: continuing to move in the direction you find easy, and natural, thereby creating further imbalance in body/mind/life, or to do the difficult work of cultivating the balancing energy.

This dualistic perspective lends us discernment in choosing how to approach our non-dualistic, holistic, yoga practice. If you tend to move slow, soft, flexible, then you’ll need to train speed, power, strength of Tandav to embody your highest expression of harmony. If you tend to move quickly, forcefully, stiffly, then you’ll need to center yourself to find grace, steady your breath to the inner work and enhance your Lasya for a more elegant expression of your innate power.

This “path less taken” approach goes beyond physical technique, just as applicable to yogic disciplines of the mind. If you tend to be ambitious, competitive, forcing your way into postures you want or think you “should” be able to do, the you need to soften and broaden your perspective on what it means to “do” yoga. If you’re naturally into letting an “experience” of yoga wash over you, without engaging in intentional effort, you will need to train yourself in the mental fortitude it takes to master an artistic discipline: strong, daily effort with clear, conscious intention.

Envisioning then integrating duality will lead each of us into a unique, yogic state of mind-body. This is the inner work that will reverberate throughout your own life and touch, inspire, those who are close to you. Imagine: a world where each of us feels empowered to practice feeling whole, complete within ourselves, moving beyond imbalances to a state of holistic harmony as individuals, communities, and global networks.

When we feel whole, complete, balanced, we are naturally happy and fulfilled human beings (me, happy, NYC)

unconventional + intellectual | yogi | artist | duke alum | east village nyc | teaching: megnapaula.com and philosophy: consciousandcurious.com

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