It’s one thing to try and stay relaxed while learning or practicing a standing pose, and often another to actually do it. We’d like it to feel easier, more natural, and there are those magic moments when it does. You’re balanced, you’re breathing, on the fast track to bliss. The only thing missing is the assurance you’ll be able to find that happy place the next time you practice.
But even David Copperfield would say the most elegant, transcending magic starts with a few basic tricks. He might tell an aspiring magician to practice his illusions; I’d say masterful sleight of hand for standing yoga poses starts with the feet.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! May I have a volunteer from the audience? How about you, madam? Please come forward. Now, pick a pose, any pose, as long as at least one foot is on the ground. Ah, nice choice. May I present Virabhadrasana II, ladies and gentlemen, otherwise known as Warrior II.
First notice our volunteer’s alignment: front knee over the ankle and bent near or to 90º; center of knee points the same direction as the center of the foot; front sit bone is tucked under; back thigh pressed back, front pelvis slightly lifted off the thigh. Observe her shoulders aligned above the hips, her spine lightly lengthened, chest open to the side, arms extended at shoulder height as she gazes beyond the leading hand's fingertips.
Now watch closely! This pose is about to change before your very eyes! Madam, please bring your attention to your feet. Spread the toes and liven the arches. Feel for even contact under the soles then gently press them into the earth. Think yield. Imagine that the more you yield, the more your feet conduct the energy surrounding you from air and earth, pulsing prana (chi), into every cell of your body. Ladies and gentlemen, please observe: she no longer holds the pose, the pose holds her.
I’m going to walk all around our volunteer. There are no props, no strings, no gimmicks. But there is magic afoot.