Busting the perfect posture myth

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Some modern schools of Hatha Yoga claim that they teach "perfect" postures that you can slip into as easily as a tailor-made suit. But how can the same posture be perfect for both a 15-year-old athlete and a 60-year-old retiree? Besides, these schools disagree among themselves about what constitutes a perfect posture. So, to spell it out, the perfect posture is a perfect myth.

As the great Yoga master Patanjali explained nearly 2,000 years ago, posture has only two requirements: A posture should be steady and easeful:

✓ Steady posture: A steady posture is a posture that you hold stable for a certain period of time. The key isn't freezing all movement, though. Your posture becomes steady when your mind is steady. As long as your thoughts run wild, including your negative emotions, your body also remains unsteady. As you become more skilled in self-observation, you begin to notice the ever-revolving carousel of your mind and become sensitive to the tension in your body. That tension is what Yoga means by unsteadiness.

✓ Easeful posture: A posture is easeful when it's enjoyable and enlivening rather than boring and burdensome. An easeful posture increases the principle of clarity — sattva — in you. But easefulness isn't slouching. Sattva and joy are intimately connected. The more sattva is present in your body-mind, the more relaxed and happy you will be.

Although Patanjali was thinking primarily, perhaps even exclusively, in terms of meditation postures, his formula applies to all postures equally.

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