The Power of a Relaxed Face

In yoga, its not uncommon to see students pushing to achieve an outward form of an asana – trying to emulate their teacher, a photo, or the person in front of them – even when their body and breath are telling them they aren’t ready yet.

In the yoga sutras, Patanjali stresses the need in yoga to balance effort (sthira) with ease (sukha), stability with relaxation. 

The breath is often the most reliable signal of how you are doing in this regard.  At all times, you should be able to take slow, deep, regular breaths in your practice. 

There is a story of a man visiting Mr. Iyengar in his studio in India.  All around the studio were pictures of Iyengar in various poses.  It was pointed out to the man that “many poses, but one face”.  There was an inner relaxation, no matter how difficult the pose.

Iyengar relaxed face
Despite the challenging pose, Iyengar’s face is calm.

I am inspired by this idea. How can I keep the same relaxed face?  Can I maintain it in pigeon pose as my hips scream at me?  Can I keep it as the traffic comes to a standstill and I need to get my son picked up by 3:30?  Is my face still relaxed as I face the stack of bills, full email inbox, and stack of dirty dishes in the sink?

I welcome the idea of balancing not only my yoga practice but my entire life around the concept of effort and ease. For me, not efforting so much, but rather relaxing into the moment is challenging.  This goes against the lesson I learned growing up that “we always give 110%!”.  Pantanjali says….NO!  Not 110%!  He says, put in effort, but don’t forget to balance this with ease.

The mantra I’ve been working with that seems to ground the idea of balancing effort and ease is “Om Daksham Namah”.  Which means “My actions receive maximal benefit with minimal effort”.

Relax your face, soften your gaze, repeat “Om Daksham Namah”.  Keep all that…and now flow forward into your life.