Ideally, the very first thing we do in a yoga posture (asana) is set the foundation. We place our feet and/or our hands in a very particular way, with great intention and keen attentiveness to detail. We position our feet and hands carefully because the way the rest of the asana unfolds will be directly affected by the placement of the parts of us that are touching the ground.
Then, before we build the rest of the asana, we soften a little. When the foundation is strong and sure, we are able to breathe freely. Almost instinctively, we pause and we are able to open to the possibility of how the next few moments might unfold. From the clear physical foundation, with openness to the present moment, we then build the rest of the posture.
When we practice in this way, there is an internal surrender that can occur. The strength and support of our foundation sends subtle cues to our entire system so that some layers of tension can dissolve, muscles can release and space can open up.
Once a strong foundation is set and that openness occurs, it is tremendously satisfying and liberating to flow, either within a posture or between postures, taking just as much care to ensure that each foundation is clear so that we can fully experience freedom. With that freedom comes ease, not only in the body but also in the mind. We feel light and capable and discover that we are able to open more than we thought possible.
Practicing this way is a very different experience from casually moving into an asana without consideration for the foundation and quickly moving between postures before the first posture is fully expressed by the body. In my experience, when I move quickly without taking care with my foundation, I begin to gather internal tension, with deep internal muscles trying to compensate for the work that the larger muscles are meant to be doing. Beyond the physical, I notice I also begin to feel anxious or agitated.
Similarly in daily life off the mat, I notice that if I set my foundations wisely, I can soften and open to the possibility of what a given day or a given situation may hold. When I have my feet on the ground figuratively, I am far more able to go with the flow of life. If I neglect to take care of myself, everything else in my life suffers – I become tense, situations seem impossible, other people’s shortcomings become unbearable, I worry more, I demand more, I sleep less, I give less, I live less and I achieve less.
Consider the things that help you to set your foundation. A regular yoga practice is invaluable to creating internal steadiness. What else helps you to put your feet on the ground? What connects you to your innate wellbeing and joy? What food, drink and company make you feel healthy and whole? What activities light you up inside? What do you absolutely need to feel fully like the very best expression of yourself? THESE are the things you need to make sure you get. They aren’t luxuries. They are necessities. The world NEEDS you to come fully alive every single day.
I would encourage you to spend a few minutes in reflection and write down your answers to the questions above. Choose three non-negotiable things that you need to do to “set your foundation”, whether they be daily or weekly things. Then make setting your foundation a priority for at least three weeks (that’s how long it takes to form a habit). Notice how your life unfolds differently when you’ve got the internal softness that’s possible when you’ve properly set your foundation.
In my experience, the way that you take care of yourself has a direct impact on everything and everyone else in your life. When you’ve got the strength and surety that comes from setting your foundation, you can be open and responsive in your body and your mind instead of tense and contracted. Because of this, you are able to offer more kindness and be of greater service to every single person around you and to the world in general. You can go with the flow and live more fully.
**To learn more about ways to create sustainable ways to be of service to the world, check out the “Yoga in Action” courses that I run!