With a quick Internet search or visit to the yoga section of your local bookstore, you can easily put together a list of benefits associated with your favourite (or least favourite) yoga pose. For Balasana, Child’s Pose, that list would likely include things such as:
Calms the mind and body
Helps relieve stress and fatigue
Releases tension from the low back
Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
A list like the one above is a nice place to begin when learning to practice asana (yoga postures). It offers a general sense of what types of benefits may be possible in a pose, and it may provide motivation to explore new and different poses.
But as our practice of asana begins to deepen, this general list of associated benefits begins to fall away in light of our individual experiences in the pose. The reasons for practicing start to stem more from a reflection on personal experience. One yoga practitioner might find that Child’s Pose brings an amazing amount of ease to his breath, while another might report that it consistently helps with her headaches.
Learning to understand what a pose is about in your body, whether it be Child’s Pose, Warrior II or Shavasana, comes down to your commitment to experiencing it in your own body. As you move through your practice, how present are you with your own internal experience? Can you map the sensations the pose is bringing up in your body? Do you notice when you are holding unnecessary tension in your face – without being cued to it by the teacher?
How do poses affect you emotionally? Are there poses that calm you? Are there poses that empower you? If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, what poses help to soothe you?
Yoga is an experimental practice. The postures are not intended to be used prescriptively, but rather as a place to start; as something to explore. With all the different practices we are offered through yoga, the invitation from the teacher is to try it – and then to tell her what you find.